A highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school leaves New York City, decides to come home. It's not the Momo Jones story again or the Ashton Pankey tale; forward Jermaine Lawrence has left the Cincinnati Bearcats and will try to come back to New York, and not just for lack of playing time/ opportunity.
"I'm leaving UC because my father is ill," Lawrence said in a press release from the University of Cincinnati. "I want to be closer to him as well as be close enough where I can have him and my mom attend my games. We appreciate everyone's support."
St. John's is interested in the forward, who Steve Lavin recruited as a prime target for the 2013 class.
No visit set yet, but continuous dialogue between Jermaine Lawrence camp and St John's. #sjubb— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) May 14, 2014
Jermaine Lawrence is from Springfield Gardens - just a few miles from St. John's in southeast Queens, where Anthony Mason and Norm Roberts grew up. St. John's would be the closest Division I school to that neighborhood.
The 6'9", 205 pound forward is tall and athletic, ranking in the top 30 of the major scouting services; he averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds in his senior year at New Jersey's Pope John XXIII after transferring from Cardozo High School in the middle of his junior season.
In college, though, Lawrence struggled with his role (and may have been unhappy with that role) and saw 15 minutes per game for a veteran Bearcats squad that lost in their opening round game of the NCAA Tournament to Harvard.
But between injury and an adjustment to the Bearcats' style, he was ineffective, averaging 3 points per game overall and 1 point per game in conference play despite averaging over 10 minutes per game. He shot reluctantly (15%) of the time and poorly (33% shooting on two-point attempts, 47% from the free throw line).
Lawrence did miss a month of games to a turf toe injury.
"You lose five weeks of conditioning in the middle of the season and it just destroys your season," UC head coach Mick Cronin said [via the Cincinnati Enquirer]. "He just needs minutes so he can get comfortable on how to attack the defense and how to use his skills."
He considers himself a small forward on the next level, and will need some work to get there. But he was highly rated in high school, and there is a reason for that. Lawrence is fluid and athletic, and was a very good scorer in high school when he wasn't sidelined by injury.
The knock on Lawrence was about his "motor", his energy. To remove that reputation, Lawrence will need to better know his role to attack the more athletic, more complex defenses in college with his athleticism, dribble and shooting.
Can he get back to the player who intrigued major programs around the nation? Or was his freshman year a bad sign?
Players tend to improve between freshman and sophomore years, so Lawrence SHOULD be better in his next season. The question for the teams interested in him will be about how much better can he get, and how dedicated is he to training to become the player he wants to be ?
In terms of recruiting competition, Lawrence has interest from Hofstra, Manhattan, St. John's, and Iona, where he is currently visiting.
Jermaine Lawrence had spent time on St. John's Queens campus; as one person put it, a visit to Union and Utopia would be more of a "getting reacquainted" trip.
St. John's has three open scholarships. Lawrence will likely seek a waiver to play immediately, since he is moving home to be closer to his sick father. The current St. John's forward/ wing rotation includes Chris Obekpa, Sir`Dominic Pointer, Christian Jones, new recruit Keith Thomas and incoming freshman center Adonis Delarosa.