Lawrence Remains Out as Pope John Hosts Cancer Benefit

Pope John XXIII High School (Sparta, N.J.) will host the first annual Living Hope Festival to Benefit Cancer Research this weekend, but star forward Jermaine Lawrence won’t be able to compete.

The 6-foot-10 Lawrence — who is considering Cincinnati, St. John’s and UNLV and will sign in the spring — was not cleared by doctors this week after undergoing surgery on his hand and could miss another two weeks.

“Right now it’s just kind of day-to-day,” Pope John coach Jason Hasson told SNY.tv Thursday.

“He’s seeing the trainer right now and it’s probably going to be another week or so, maybe two. But we’re not going to do anything to jeopardize his career, or his future. He’ll be back when he’s ready.”

The Living Hope Festival is a two-day event that features boys and girls teams, with St. Benedict’s Prep, St. Andrew’s (R.I.), Hillhouse (Conn.) and Our Savior New American (N.Y.) among those joining host Pope John on the boys side. (Click here for the full schedule.)

“It should be a good tournament,” freshman point guard Bryce Aiken said. “There’s going to be a lot of top players and top teams that are coming out. And it’s for a good cause. We’re donating to the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.”

Lawrence had hoped to return in time for the tournament, but instead his teammates are patiently awaiting his debut with the team.

“Oh yeah, that will be a good addition to the team,” Aiken said. “He can be a physical presence inside and bring some leadership to the team and balance.”

Lawrence has taken official visits to Cincinnati and UNLV and is planning to take one to St. John’s, but Hasson said no date has yet been set. The Queens native has already visited St. John’s several times unofficially and could opt to do so again.

Meantime, several of his teammates are piling up Division 1 offers.

Though just a frosh, the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Aiken holds offers from Rutgers, Manhattan, Detroit, St. Francis and Delaware.

“It shows me that my hard work pays off and I have a lot to work for,” said Aiken, who put up 18 points and six assists Sunday when Pope John (4-3) lost to Hudson Catholic, 69-53, in the New Year’s Jump-Off in Hackensack.

Aiken attended Wednesday’s Louisville-Seton Hall game, along with Malachi Richardson and Asante Gist of Roselle Catholic.

“It was a good game, it was competitive up until about the last 10 minutes when they [Seton Hall] lost the lead and the game started to be a blowout,” Aiken said.

Noah Brown, Aiken’s teammate, is the only athlete in the state of New Jersey with both football and basketball scholarship offers, Hasson said.

A 6-2, 205-pound junior wide receiver, Brown has football offers from Rutgers, Boston College and Temple. In basketball, he has an offer from Rider and interest from Iona and Hofstra.

“It’s definitely a challenge with both of the seasons being back-to-back and still trying to balance schoolwork, but I think I’m doing a good job of it,” he said.

Brown visited Rutgers last Saturday for the basketball team’s win over Pitt and said having the football offer from Rutgers is appealing.

“It’s definitely a benefit being so close to home,” he said. “I don’t have to adjust to too much, and with the move to the Big Ten they’re still competitive so that’s definitely a factor.”

After this year, Hasson said he hopes to expand the tournament in future years.

“This is the first year we’re ever going to run it,” he said. “It’s a very premier event and it’s going to be something that’s going to build. The first year we got one heck of a lineup and next year we’re going to try to make it even bigger, maybe try to make it a national event next year.”

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