With seven seconds left in the 2012-13 season, Scott Laws exited a game for the final time as a McMaster athlete. It wasn’t dramatic. There was no romantic end. It was a playoff game at Lakehead University; this moment was not important to the people in attendance.
Laws gave his coach a firm handshake and grabbed a seat on the bench. He didn’t show much emotion – other than frustration about losing the game. It was a simple moment for the end of a wild ride.
The 6’4’’ guard out of Gormley, Ont. first came to Mac after being recruited by former head coach Joe Raso. His first two years donning the Maroon and Grey had an instant impact on the team, with his defensive abilities making him a key member of the rotation.
With a year of experience came more floor time, and Laws’ minutes jumped from 19.8 per game to 27.5 between his first- and second-year. But just as Laws was starting to come into his own, an injury struck early in November 2010 – his third season.
“I was going to the basket for a lay-up and came down on someone’s foot and then just twisted my ankle. Originally, we thought it was just an ankle sprain and I walked off the floor and all that kind of stuff. I thought it was fine. I tried to get back in and play,” explained Laws. “Every time I would try and step or run, it didn’t feel like my body was letting me do it. There was no stability, which was weird because it didn’t hurt. Immediately after the game, I couldn’t put any weight on it.”
The following morning, Laws woke up with his right foot covered in bruises. He had broken the fifth metatarsal, which was the pinky bone halfway up his foot. At the time, Laws and the coaching staff didn’t know the real extent of the damage.
“I played the second-half of the season with [a broken foot]. I had surgery once the season was done. I had a screw in it and then when they did the first surgery, it wasn’t viewed as that bad of injury,” said Laws.
This was supposed to be the end. The nagging injury was supposed to disappear and Laws could get back to helping the Marauders on the court. It wasn’t that simple though.
“The way [the bone] broke, and the special kind of break that it was made it really difficult for it to heal with the way it was being treated. That’s just because my foot had been broken before but we didn’t know. Then it broke more,” Laws recalled. The way that it broke, the bone peeled away and when they tried to reattach it to the base of the bone, it didn’t mesh. Then they thought the bone was dying.”
This kind of break is called a nonunion fracture. When a bone does not grow back, the ends of a fracture can be too far apart for bones to signal to heal together. Laws says that they can’t nail down when he originally broke his foot and that it could have been earlier in university, or even dating back to high school.
Laws would have a second surgery that would finally solve the break, but required a much longer recovery period.
“They did a different kind of surgery where they wrapped some kind of mesh around it and attached a tendon underneath to the ligament,” explained Laws. “Then I had a bone stimulator, that was supposed to encourage growth. It all worked, but just took so much longer because it was nonunion break.”
Laws would be forced to sit out his entire fourth-year. He would apply his education to create some marketing campaigns for the basketball program, including the Midnight Madness team hype session and Pack This House event.
After taking the year to get back to 100 per cent, the senior was at a crossroads. The program was going through a rebirth; Mac was rich with talent but not yet a national contender. Laws also had not been healthy in over a year and admitted to having concerns how effective he could be.
“The question was always in the back of my mind of whether I’d be able to play to the same level I had before. Any athlete that’s been an athlete, if you can’t play to the same level you has before… It’s pretty difficult,” said Laws.
He pointed to spending a lot of time with teammates as a reason for why he returned. Having a year on the bench allowed Laws to foster a better camaraderie with the other Mac men.
Laws return proved to be a major difference maker in his final season. Head coach Amos Connolly praised the quiet consistency of the team leader.
“He showed the way. To return, under the circumstances that he chose to this year, to lead by example were big things for our guys. All our young guys this year needed to still be learning, and they are much more prepared going forward because of what Scott was able to do,” said Connolly.
Moving forward, Laws has been accepted to the University of Toronto to work towards a Master’s of Business Administration. He explained that it’s bittersweet to walk away, as Mac is on the verge of breaking out next season.
“I’m sad that my time is over but I’m proud of the time I spent there. I truly feel that I’ve left the program better than when I got there,” said Laws.
As his rollercoaster career at McMaster comes to a close, Laws won’t finish as an all-time statistical leader in anything. Defensive prowess doesn’t transfer well to the box score. But what Laws accomplished is more important than what numbers can describe.
When the Marauders headed to the locker room after the playoff loss, the players headed in while the coaches waited outside the doors to discuss what would be said in the postgame talk.
The room was full of disappointment. After seven months of work, the team finished well short of their goal. Laws stood up and took control of the group – a side that fans don’t normally see.
Laws asked them to make a promise. He wanted the group to make it back next year and to not make the same mistakes.
What he was really asking for was perseverance. The same resolve he showed after his series of disastrous setbacks.
The players obliged. If they make good on that promise of perseverance, the ceiling for this program is higher than ever before. A national championship could be in the future.
Should Mac find themselves with a CIS championship, Scott Laws will be as worthy as anyone of wearing the gold medal.