By SEVE COUSINS
Special to ZAGSBLOG
SPARTA, N.J. — Jermaine Lawrence had to wait more than a month for his senior year debut.
When it finally came, he made the most of it.
After missing the first half of the season with a hand injury, Lawrence took the floor with his Pope John XXIII teammates at the 5:27 mark of the first period and helped his team easily defeat Morris Hills, 58-36, in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference game.
Lawrence did not appear rusty in notching 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in front of St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin and assistant Tony Chiles, who were coming off a 72-60 victory at Rutgers Wednesday night.
“I was really excited to come in the game and be on the court; everything came natural,” Lawrence, a Queens native, told SNY.tv after the game. “I haven’t really missed a step since I’ve been on the court.”
The 6-foot-10 Lawrence is considering St. John’s, Cincinnati and UNLV and will sign in the spring. He said he’d been watching a lot of all three teams’ games on TV over the last couple weeks, including St. John’s recent win at Cincinnati.
Lawrence is expected to visit St. John’s again at some point soon. St. John’s hosts Seton Hall on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, but it remains unclear if Lawrence will visit.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin was in town to watch Lawrence work out.
“It was a good experience for him to come out to watch me work out,” he said. “It was just a blessing.“
The addition of Lawrence will have major implications for the New Jersey North Non-Public A bracket come state playoff time.
Pope John now has a “Big Three” that features Lawrence; speedy 5-8 freshman guard Bryce Aiken (10 points), who is reminiscent of a young Andre Barrett; and 6-9 sophomore center Moustapha Diagne (14 points), a force to be reckoned with on the interior who this week picked up an offer from Cincinnati.
With that much firepower, they’re not the type of team anyone wants to square off against in a single-elimination tournament.
“This was Jermaine’s first game,” Pope John coach Jason Hasson told SNY.tv. “We have a lot of stuff we have to figure out. We have a lot of talent but we have a lot of work to do.”