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St. John's Recruiting Update: Omari Lawrence

Note: photo courtesy of MaxPreps

As initially reported by

Omari Lawrence, a 6-foot-4 swingman from South Kent in Connecticut, has a frontrunner, according to [Lawrence's AAU team] New York Panthers' program director Gary Charles.

"St. John's is the team to beat," said Charles.

The recruiting race isn't over, according to Charles. But head coach Norm Roberts of the Red Storm has done a tremendous job in forging an early advantage.

Omari LawrenceWha? A high-end recruit wants to stay home.

An early advantage to St. John's? How did this happen?

St. John's coach Norm Roberts seems to do a solid job on selling recruits to take a look at the school, but even with guys like Kevin and Mookie Jones, and even Sylven Landesberg, it never seemed that the Red Storm was a "front runner."

Omari Lawrence is a 2009 recruit, and is transferring to South Kent Prep School in Connecticut, along with former St. Raymond's teammate Kevin Parrom, who has been blowing up/ gaining notice by the big schools over the summer; both have interest from Pittsburgh, and Clemson; Lawrence has offers from Arizona, Memphis, Connecticut, and others, according to

Omari reiterated his #1 to the New York Daily News, while not playing this summer due to a separated shoulder from the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp:

"I believe great things can happen if I go there," Lawrence said in an interview at his Bronx home on Wednesday night. "We can start winning games, bring back the program and the fans…. It would bring back life into college basketball in the city."

If Lawrence signs with St. John’s, he would be Norm Roberts’ first elite New York City recruit. Lawrence said Roberts also wants to land Rice’s Durand Scott and Staten Island native and Oak Hill big man Danny Jennings with the program’s three 2009 scholarships.

The 6-4, 205-pound combo guard stressed that he would continue to visit schools, such as UConn, Louisville and Florida later this summer and didn’t set a deadline to decide his college plans.

"I believe I am an instant impact player who can come in and help any program immediately," said Lawrence, who averaged 18 points and five rebounds for St. Raymond last season. "You never know, anything can happen. At the end of the day, St. John’s may not be the perfect spot, but right now it is No. 1."

Lawrence said he is close with St. John’s big man Justin Burrell. He also plays for the New York Panthers AAU team, which is coached by Oz Cross. St. John’s may add Cross to its staff after he finishes coaching the Panthers on the summer circuit, according to reports....

"Before I would have never thought about them, but I felt very comfortable with Norm when we met with him at St. John’s," Alma Lawrence said. "If Omari says that’s where he wants to go, I would support it 100%."

It's early still. And the lack of an actual commitment - when other schools are picking up 2009 and 2010 verbals - means that these are just empty words right now. But for empty words, they are promising.

He plays very willing defense. A scouting report from Northstar Basketball:

Omari Lawrence is a fantastic talent, certainly one of Big East caliber. The 6’4 junior guard is a bit lanky, quite skinny, and appears somewhat awkward on the court, as he has an odd shooting motion, which is evident on his free throws. As well, he even seems to dribble somewhat awkwardly, but it’s definitely working for him. Lawrence has solid athleticism: nice ups, quickness, aggressive, and some muscularity.

As for his actual game, Omari has a solid crossover and attacks the basket extremely well, which is helped by his stellar head fake. At times, the St. Raymond’s (NY) stud appeared to be a bit too fancy. On a court of superstars (Kevin Parrom, Sterling Gibbs, Renardo Sidney, Jordan Hamilton), Lawrence may well have been the best player of them all. This NY Panther is destined for success.

And of course... video. At :27 seconds, watch a defender get crossed hard:

And also: