By Joseph Staszewski
It was a different type of summer for Jermaine Lawrence.
The highly recruited 6-foot-9 forward spent a limited amount of time on the travel ball circuit with his program The Rens. Lawrence attended Reebok Breakout Camp, LeBron James Skills Academy and Adidas in July, choosing to spend the bulk of his time working on improving his body, his individual skills and learning how to balance basketball and life.
Nagging injuries to his ankle and wrist also held him back.
“I have to be prepared for my senior season,” the Pope John XXIII (N.J.) forward said.
Lawrence, who transferred from Cardozo to the New Jersey Catholic school in the middle of his junior season, instead spent three days a week working with Explosive Hoops trainers Isiah Monroe and Antwane Davis.
Monroe, his skills coach, said they focused on improving his handling, footwork, facing up and finishing with his left hand. Lawrence, who is looking for a more consistent jumper, has done a lot of plyometrics to further his athleticism. Trainers don’t want him to be pigeonholed as just a power forward, but let him showcase his ability to run the floor.
“No matter where he is on the court he is going to be unguardable because of his footwork,” Monroe said. “If he has a handle, he can go on the perimeter and with his footwork and post moves he can go down low.
Lawrence’s skill set has made him one of the area’s most recruited prospects. He is the No. 14 ranked player in his class by scout.com and 16th in his class by ESPN and No. 1 in New York state. He has a host of offers from the likes of Baylor, Cincinnati, Florida, Kansas, Louisville, St. John’s, Rutgers, Syracuse, UNLV and Rutgers, among others. Lawrence is looking for a team that plays a completely up-tempo style.
Lawrence plans on cutting his list down at the end of the month and doesn’t have any visits planned.
“That’s my game,” Lawrence said of playing in a transition system. “I like to run up and down.”
He is back in New York this weekend to play in the Big Strick Classic, an all-star game in memory of streetball legend John Strickland, who died in October 2010. It pits some of the nation’s top prospects against the local area’s top talent 6 p.m. Saturday at CCNY. Lawrence wasn’t an original member of Team NYC, but was added late after expressing interest to the event’s organizers. He is humbled to be allowed to play alongside and against such talented athletes.
“It’s cool representing New York against the rest of the USA,” he said. “I was in it last year. It was real big.”
All of this is in preparation to trying to lead Pope John XXIII to a state title next season. There was more of a transition to the strict nature of the school than anything else, he said. His club lost to Seton Hall Prep in the Non-Public, North A semifinals last season.
“We got pretty good players on the team,” Lawrence said. “We just want to get to the state and win it.”