Belleville West point guard Lawrence Brazil signs with UMSL

Nearly three months after helping to lead the Belleville West Maroons to a second straight Class 4A state basketball championship, Lawrence Brazil III is ready for the next challenge.

A third team Illinois Basketball Coaches Association all-state selection this past season, Brazil signed a letter of intent Thursday to attend and play basketball at he University of Missouri at St. Louis beginning in August.

The Maroons point guard and the floor general of a team which is one of the best in IHSA state history, the 6-2 Brazil averaged 12.6 points and had 69 3-point field goals while dishing out nearly five assists per game for West which finished 34-4 this season and won 66 games the past two years.

And while winning back-to-back state titles was a dream come true for Brazil, having the chance to play college basketball so close to home is another. On Thursday with his family, several teammates and coaches and friends on hand, Brazil became the newest member of the UMSL Tritons basketball program.

“The entire focus last year was trying to win a second straight state championship. After we did that I thought it was time to look for a school for myself for the next four years,’’ Brazil said. “I had interest from several different types of schools.

“But I really liked UMSL. The coaches made me feel like they wanted me. They called me, had me over for a visit, fed me and they even had an UMSL jersey with my No. 3 on it. I really liked that. They offered me a full scholarship. II also like the fact of playing close to home. I have three younger brothers that I’m close too.. This way I can keep an eye on them Make sure they are alright.’’

Brazil chose UMSL over Illinois-Springfield and several junior college, including Southwestern Illinois College and John A. Logan College in Carterville. He was also offered a chance to be a preferred walk-on at SIU-Carbondale.

But instead Brazil will play for the Tritons. Under veteran coach Bob Sunvold, UMSL finished 20-7 year ago while competing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference against traditional NCAA Division II national powers such as Southern Indiana, Bellarmine and University of Indianapolis.

A first team News-Democrat all-area selection this past year, Brazil was a proven winner. In two years at Belleville West, the Maroons won 66 games and two state titles.

Brazil and former West coach Joe Muniz realize that he needs to continue to get stronger. But what Brazil may lack in bulk, he makes up for with his desire and heart.

“I am very excited for Lawrence and his family. In as much as UMSL is getting a great basketball player, they are getting an even better young man,’’ Muniz said.. “Lawrence is still growing and in two or three years when he has filled out, he’s going to have a totally different body.

“Lawrence may not be the biggest or the strongest basketball player, but the size of his heart makes up for that. He is a flat out winner. To win 66 games and two state titles in two years, you can’t do any better than that.’’

Brazil plans on majoring in accounting at UMSl.