Cardozo’s big star stuns with early exit

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Jermaine Lawrence, one of the city’s top talents and a nationally ranked junior, has left Cardozo.

The 6-foot-9 forward with 17 major Division I offers from St. John’s, Florida, Virginia Tech and Xavier among others will enroll at Pope John XXIII in Sparta, N.J., effective immediately, his mother, Marcia Lawrence, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Springfield Gardens native will be commuting an hour daily to the New Jersey school. Friday was his first day of classes.

“After having a family discussion, we decided that it’s in Jermaine’s best interest to focus on academics and have enrolled him at Pope John XXIII, which is Christian-centered, has a 12-to-1 student/faculty ratio and offers multiple fine arts courses, which will be Jermaine’s major in college,” Marcia Lawrence said in a statement.

She declined an interview request and said the family would not be making any further statements.

“I’m still like in the very numb category,” Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio said. “I love the kid; the mother broke down and cried. She said, ‘Coach, we love you.’ Jermaine didn’t want to leave, but right now she feels it’s best. Will he be back? Who knows, but I have to worry about what I have. Two years from now high school would be over even if he stayed.”

Naclerio was hard-pressed to explain exactly why Lawrence had to leave. He’s taking an SAT prep course, has a tutor and a C-plus average at Cardozo, one of the better public schools in the city.

“Eighty to 90 percent of basketball players in the city would love to have his transcript,” Naclerio said.

Lawrence suffered a slight knee injury in a win over George Westinghouse Jan. 6 and missed the Judges’ two victories last week, Jan. 10 over Beach Channel and Jan. 12 against Thomas Edison.

In eight league games, Lawrence was averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds per game for Cardozo, which is alone atop Queens AA with a 9-1 mark and is 11-2 overall.

“My team is in the gym right now. They all got together and had a team meeting,” Naclerio said. “We’re doing our walkthrough drills on defense. As a coach, I have to find a way. That’s my job. I still think we’re a very good team.”

“It’s a huge blow,” one coach involved in Lawrence’s recruiting said. “You’re not only talking about one of the best kids in New York City, but one of the best kids in the country — a top 100 level talent. You lose that type of kid, it hurts your program.”

With a 7-4 record, Pope John XXIII is far from a powerhouse — it’s better known for track and field and football — though that will most likely not affect Lawrence’s recruiting.

“Coaches go where players are,” the college coach said. “His best days are ahead of him. Obviously, he’s got to get stronger. He has to work harder. But the sky is the limit. He has a lot of untapped potential.”

Lawrence is expected to be playing for one of the city’s major AAU programs this summer after spending his career with Positive Direction up until this point.

Where that will be has yet to be determined.

Updated 6:56 pm, January 18, 2012
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Reader feedback

david from bayside says:
Coach Naclerio gets what he richly deserves. Here is a guy who is allowed to recruit from all areas without any question from PSAL officials. Even with this hands off policy from school and league officials he cant seem to win the big one. A has been whose time should be over.
Jan. 18, 2012, 3:29 pm
COACH from Jamaica says:
Sound like money transfered hear.. Say what you want I know coaches to get what they want, when they want it. Hope the NCAA blow the horn on this. Mother quote sound really suspect. NCAA please do your investigation on this some what talented athlete.
Jan. 20, 2012, 3:25 pm

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