Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Cardozo’s Lawrence, St. Ben’s Briscoe Star at Iona
By ALAN AVITAL
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio has worked with Darryl Hill, Rafer Alston and Duane Causwell, but he says Jermaine Lawrence could be as good as any of his former protégés.
The 6-foot-8 Lawrence, a rising junior at Cardozo in Queens, made his presence felt Sunday at the Iona team camp in an early-round victory over Baldwin High, defending on one end and dunking on the other. Still raw, Lawrence’s potential is untapped.
“Jermaine’s potential is as good as anybody that I have ever had here at Cardozo,” Naclerio said. “He has the three qualities that make up a great basketball talent. He has size, and according to his mother, she expects him to grow even more over the next two years. He has athleticism, and he can really shoot the ball.
“All he needs is to work on moves and some fine tuning.”
Lawrence, who has been offered by Big East powers Cincinnati and Louisville, along with Virginia Tech and Hofstra, understands what it takes to make an impact on the next level.
“I am looking to play the 2 or 3 on the next level,” Lawrence said. “But I know that I need to work on my D and my post moves to really make an impact.”
While Lawrence’s athleticism drew much of the crowd’s attention, he was not alone in receiving praise.
St. Benedict’s Isaiah Briscoe and Kevin Mickle were two of those underclassmen to watch.
Briscoe, a 6-foot-2 rising freshman, has already made a name for himself without playing in a sanctioned high school basketball game. Regarded by many recruiting publications as one of the nation’s top eighth graders, Briscoe didn’t feel the jitters playing against competitors one, two and even three years his senior.
“Right now, he is as good as anybody on our team,” first-year St. Benedict’s head coach Mark Taylor said of his 14-year old point guard, who will likely team in the backcourt with junior Tyler Ennis. “He doesn’t play like a freshman. He has a lot of poise, great handle and has great body control.”
Briscoe models his game after fellow Garden State lead guard Deron Williams of the Nets.
“Deron Williams loves to take the ball to the basket, just like me,” said Briscoe, who has already received inquiries from both Providence and Syracuse. “I know that going to St. Benedict’s will help me play that open court game. I also know that at St. Benedict’s, I get to build my name up again.”
Briscoe was recently invited to play at the Duke Elite camp.
Briscoe’s future teammate Kevin Mickle, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, brings raw athleticism to the table, a gift that Taylor hopes to exploit for the next two seasons at St. Benedict’s.
“I love Kevin’s athleticism,” he said. “He is a little raw, but has great upside. He knows that he needs to get stronger and hit the gym more, but he is really long and has the wing span of a 6-foot-10 player.”
Mickle hasn’t been contacted by any schools as of yet, but knows the transfer to a nationally renowned program can’t help but further his development.
“This coaching staff will help me be a Division 1 player,” a mild-mannered Mickle said. “I am always learning new things at practice, and each day I see myself getting better and better.”
Cardinal Hayes rising senior forward Amadou Sidibe’s defensive prowess had the Iona coaching staff take notice, including assistant Jared Grasso, whose familiarity with the 6-8 post dates back to his short tenure as head basketball coach at Fordham.
Grasso, who replaced a fired Derrick Whittenburg on an interim basis back in 2009, fell in love with Sidibe’s athleticism while recruiting him as a Ram assistant. That pursuit helped earn a verbal commitment from Sidibe, but the recruitment later re-opened after Grasso’s dismissal.
Sidibe, who averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds last season for the Catholic school ‘A’ league runner-ups, prides himself as a team player both on and off the court.
“I like watching Tyson Chandler because he is an all-around player,” said Sidibe, who has standing offers from Iona, Fordham and Quinnipiac. “I am all about the team.”
Mount Vernon senior-to-be 6-foot-2 guard Isaiah Cousins was a defensive stopper for the 2010 ‘AA’ State champion Knights. Cousins will now take over the team from Jabarie Hinds, the New York Mr. Basketball co-winner who is headed to West Virginia.
“Isaiah will be the leader of this team,” longtime Mount Vernon head coach Bob Cimmino said. “He has worked extremely hard and could be a big -time point guard. He attacks well, shoots the ball, and defensively plays very long. In my time here, I can’t remember having a point guard that big.”
Cousins, who has already received offers from locals Iona, Manhattan and Hofstra, knows how important his final campaign is to his future.
“Being the point guard at Mount Vernon brings great exposure,” said Cousins, who looks up to former Rice High and UConn point guard Kemba Walker. “He can shoot, score off the dribble and rebound the basketball. He is also a leader.”
Hamden Hall’s 6-8 power forward Darren Payen’s invitation to the Iona camp brings personal importance to the B-plus academic senior-to-be.
“This camp is really important for my game,” said Payen, who averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds as a junior at Hamden Hall. “Two years ago, I was playing in local tournaments. Now, I am getting the exposure that I need.”
Payen, who is getting looks by Bucknell, St. Francis (PA) and Brown, has not been offered as of yet.
“I know that I need to build up and get physically stronger,” Payen said. “I am at 210 right now. I would like to be 215 to 220 at the end of my senior season.”
Teaneck High outlasted its 17 competitors, by besting in-state rival St. Benedicts, 52-46, to win the first annual Iona College summer basketball camp championship. Wings Academy (NY) and Cardinal Hayes (NY) finished third and fourth, respectively.
(Photos courtesy Daily News, LoHud.com)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.