A few years ago the tagline for a popular commercial was, “Who says you can’t have it all?” In the case of former Madison and Rice University basketball standout Kim Lawson, the answer is the affirmative. “I can have it all!”
Lawson, a four-year starter at Madison on the girls’ basketball squad and two-time All Greater Houston area performer, was also the class valedictorian in 1999. A four-year starter at Rice and the Lady Owls all time assist leader, Lawson was a multi-year Western Athletic Conference All-Academic selection.
Now a CPA, Lawson is pursuing her entrepreneurial passion. She runs her own accounting consulting company, KDL Consulting Services, and in 2006 she partnered with former Rice teammate Starla James to open an events planning company, EsKay Entertainment.
For Lawson, the passion for basketball began at an early age.
“I started playing when I was about five years old,” Lawson recalled. “My dad [Clyde Lawson] introduced me to the game. He had played basketball in college at Southern University.”
Once introduced to the game it didn’t take long for the passion of round-ball to infect young Kim.
“I can remember around seven years old missing a free throw at the end of a game that would have won a game and being distraught for two weeks,” she said. “I always took the game seriously, but I think I got more serious the summer between my eighth grade year and my freshman year.”
It didn’t take Lawson long to figure out good things could come from her skills as a hoopster.
“I grew up playing in leagues with boys, so in middle school when I started playing exclusively with girls I was pretty far ahead of the other girls. In middle school I started playing against some of the high school girls. I saw they were getting scholarships and I thought, hey, maybe this is something that can help me get a scholarship to go to school.”
After four district titles in four years and numerous accolades as an All-District performer, it was decision time, selecting a university to continue her athletic and academic career. One school gave her the best of both worlds.
“Rice was the perfect balance for me,” Lawson said. “I’m an only child and I wanted my parents to get a chance to see me play. They gave me an indication that I would get a chance to start as a freshman, which was what I was hoping to do and they’re a great school academically. It was the trifecta – I could be at home, play and get a great education.”
At Rice, Lawson successfully made the transition from high school to college. She moved from shooting guard to point guard. She started all four years and the Lady Owls made the NCAA tournament two of those four years. She also continued her high academic standards despite the rigorous demands of major college basketball and college studies.
“Growing up, not doing well in school was never an option; it’s just what you did. Both my parents went to Southern and got degrees and my mother [Joyce] is an educator. Education was always stressed first and foremost in my home. You work just as hard in school as you do in basketball practice.”
Just as importantly Lawson not only excelled on the hardwood but in the classroom as well. She graduated from Rice (2003) in four years, with honors and not one, but three degrees – economics, philosophy and managerial studies.
“Rice has one of the highest graduation rates in Division I on the women’s athletic side,” Lawson said. “They have a culture where doing well in the classroom is the norm, that’s just what you do. You go to class, you study. The coaching staff we had when I was there really stressed academics as much as athletics.
“I think most Rice athletes walk around with a chip on their shoulder because we have something to prove; we belong here. The students at Rice think we’re just there on scholarship because we play sports, not because we can do the class work. You have to show them that we can handle the class work as well as three or four hours of practice daily.”
Upon graduation from Rice, Lawson had a choice to make about her future and as usual, she used wisdom beyond her years.
“Basketball will always be near and dear to my heart, but I didn’t see a real future for me in it past college,” she said. “I didn’t have an opportunity to play in the WNBA and I wasn’t going to go overseas. I’m a Houston girl and I had no desire to live anyplace else. I had a great opportunity with a great company, Ernst and Young, who paid for me to go to the University of Virginia to get my masters degree in accounting.”
Lawson earned her masters in 2004 and spent six years with Ernst and Young.
For those who lament the fact that an athlete must make a choice between sports or books, Lawson cautions those who would sell themselves short.
“Everything is a choice. A lot of times people do cop out and give themselves excuses. I know it’s hard, but when you make the decision and don’t give yourself a choice to have both athletics and academics you shortchange yourself. My foundation was laid by my dad, who coached me growing up. He never accepted less than my best. Now, I don’t give myself an option to not do my best.”