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 High coach Ron Naclerio told SNY.tv he feels like a “failure” after 6-foot-9 junior forward Jermaine Lawrence suddenly left Cardozo High in Queens and landed at Pope John XXIII in Sparta, N.J.
“I’m dumb-founded,” Naclerio told SNY.tv, confirming earlier reports by the New York papers.
Cardozo is set to play Saturday and Monday in the Big Apple Invitational at Baruch College and in the SNY Invitational Jan. 27-28, but will now do so without their star player.
Lawrence is averaging 17 points and 15 boards and is being actively recruited by Rutgers, St. John’s, Xavier and Virginia Tech, among others.
“I think moves were made without looking at the short-term and the long-term,” Naclerio said, adding that Lawrence’s mother, Marcia, met Friday with Cardozo principal Sheila Clark. “The long term is getting him qualified NCAA for college, which we were going out of our way to do.”
Naclerio said Lawrence was working hard academically and confirmed that he scored an 1100 recently on two parts of the SAT.
Instead of going to a basketball powerhouse like St. Anthony or St. Benedict’s — or a prep school like South Kent (Conn.) or Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) — as some recent New York players have done, Lawrence landed at Pope John, a 950-member school that is not a hoops powerhouse.
Pope John coach Jason Hasson, a former assistant at St. Anthony under Bob Hurley, was not immediately available for comment.
Mia Gavan, the Pope John AD, confirmed to the Daily News that Lawrence was at the New Jersey school.
“He’s here,” Gavan told the paper. “To my knowledge, he came here for academics, though I’m sure there are family reasons why he came here. To me, he’s just a student, not a basketball player. He seems like a wonderful young man. To be honest, I have not seen him play. I don’t know too much about him.”
Naclerio said he had been working hard to help Lawrence handle his academics.
“Monday nights I’m driving to a friend’s house in Long Island to get tutoring for Spanish,” the coach said. “I had two people tutoring him in Math and Spanish during the day.”
He added: “If you play for Cardozo and you’re under my umbrella, I give you everything I can…
“I feel like a failure.”
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.