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Jermaine Lawrence, the No. 21-ranked high school player in the country according to Rivals.com, made an oral commitment Sunday to the University of Cincinnati.Lawrence, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, N.J., made the announcement on Tumblr, a blogging website, on his 18th birthday.
“I’m blessed to celebrate a milestone birthday!” he wrote on the website. “My family and I would like to thank all the schools that showed interest. I’m humble to have had the experience of being recruited. After a long discussion with my parents, I’ve decided I’ll be attending the University of Cincinnati!!!!! I’m excited to be a part of @BearcatNation. I appreciate and thank those in New York who have supported me. It was a tough decision, however I do believe UC is a better fit for me.”
Lawrence, who is from Queens, was recruited by a host of schools but in the end chose UC over nearby St. John’s.A five-star recruit who is ranked No. 7 at his position, Lawrence is the second-highest ranked UC recruit during the Mick Cronin coaching era, behind guard Lance Stephenson, who was ranked No. 11. Stephenson played one year for the Bearcats in 2009-10 and now plays for the NBA Indiana Pacers.Lawrence is expected to sign a binding letter-of-intent during the NCAA’s signing period that begins on April 17.“He’s got guard quickness at between 6-9 and 6-10,” said Jason Hasson, the basketball coach at Pope John XXIII. “He can shoot from 20 feet to 22 feet. He’s got NBA 3-point range. He can handle it like a two or three. He’s the whole package. He can do everything.”Lawrence has been sidelined for most of this season due to surgery to repair a tendon in his right hand, which is his shooting hand, but has recently returned to action.“In four games, he’s averaging 19 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and six assists,” Hasson said. “He had eight assists yesterday. He sees the floor so well he can lead the break and find the open man.”Lawrence transferred to Pope John XXIII in the middle of last season. In nine games, he averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.“The (UC) coaching staff really worked hard to get him,” Hasson said. “He felt very comfortable with Coach (Mick) Cronin and Coach (Darren) Savino. He just felt like they were going to take him to the next level. They were going to work on the things he needs to work on.”Lawrence is considered talented enough to make the jump to the NBA after a year or two of college basketball but is not yet a finished product.“He needs to get tougher, more physical inside,” Hasson said. “He’s very good with the ball. He can shoot and handle it, but he’s not as physical as he needs to be in the NBA. He’s one of the nicest kids that I’ve ever been around. He cares about his teammates a lot.”
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July 7, 2011
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PENNINGTON, N.J. -- Emphatic dunks, feathery 3-point shots, impressive moves around the hoop -- Jermaine Lawrence showed his entire arsenal Saturday afternoon.
Flanked by some of the East Coast's top juniors and sophomores, the ever-improving 6-foot-10 former Cardozo swingman continued his steady climb. Lawrence poured in 27 points to take home MVP honors in the second annual Mary Kline Classic underclassmen all-star game, a showcase to raise money for cancer research, at Pennington HS in New Jersey.
The performance was just the latest impressive display by the Jamaica, Queens native in what has become a breakout spring. He dazzled in back-to-back weekends in Hoop Group Jam Fest showcases in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with the New Rens, his AAU team, showed limitless range and an explosive finishing ability in the lane.
Following last weekend, he landed scholarship offers from Baylor, Kansas, UNLV, Temple and Florida to go along with existing ones from Syracuse, St. John's, Maryland, Louisville, Villanova, Rutgers and Cincinnati, among others.
"I just wanted to play my 'A' game, not force anything and let my game come to me, keep improving," he said. "I really expected it to happen, especially how good I've been playing."
It all began a month ago in the 23rd annual Basketball World Tournament when Lawrence and a group of fellow prospects partook in international competition. He returned more determined, he said, tougher and confident against players his age. The team's least known player at the time, Lawrence learned a lot facing older competition.
"We were playing against pros," said Lawrence, who now attends Pope John XXIII in Sparta, N.J. "Seeing how tough they are, gave me insight into the next level. It made me play tougher and more aggressive when I came back."
National recruiting analysts raved about him on Twitter and included him in their daily write-ups. College coaches have begun to fawn over him.
"He's a special talent and when it's all said and done with hard work he could be arguably one of the best players in his class," one Division I coach familiar with Lawrence said. Another coach described him as someone capable of playing either forward position with "great upside."
Pope John coach Jason Hasson wasn't surprised, because of how hard Lawrence has worked in recent months, most notably after getting back from France. Following the trip to Pittsburgh, he was in the weight room 15 minutes after classes ended on Monday.
"I would say he's a top 10 player in his class, that's my personal opinion," Hasson said. "Only because how hard he works he's gonna get better and better and better."
Alexes Hargrove, a friend of the family helping in Lawrence's recruitment, said he will cut his list to five at some point in August. Lawrence said he has no favorites, but Cincinnati assistant Darren Savino has made a major push.
"Darren has been at every game, almost everywhere Jermaine has been," Hargrove said. "Either him or [head coach] Mick Cronin show up to support Jermaine."
After watching Lawrence in Philadelphia, UNLV told Hargrove they plan to be around a lot in the coming months. Rutgers has been involved with Lawrence since he came of age at Cardozo, with Van Macon consistently checking in, Hargrove said. St. John's was one of the first major Division I programs to offer Lawrence and they remain a factor as well.
Lawrence said location won't play a role in his commitment. He is looking for a team which plays an up-tempo style, can offer his immediate minutes and he feels comfortable at.
For now, Lawrence just wants to continue his recent tear. He'll have plenty of opportunities as he will compete in the Kevin Durant and LeBron James skills academies, the NBA Top 100 Camp and the Pangos All-American Camp.
"I had to separate myself from the pack and make noise," he said. "It's real exciting, but it makes me want to work harder so I can make noise on the next level."
Last edited 2/4/2013 2:37 PM by cincykid