Cardozo star Lawrence transfers, coach stunned

Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio said he was “dumbfounded” when news broke Friday morning that his nationally-ranked star junior, Jermaine Lawrence, had transferred schools.

Marcia Lawrence, Jermaine’s mother, announced in an that the family had “decided that it’s in Jermaine’s best interest to focus on academics and have enrolled 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.”

The news blindsided Naclerio, who met with Marcia Lawrence Friday after the information had become public. The coach said the meeting was emotional and he still isn’t sure exactly why Lawrence decided to leave for the private school in Sparta, N.J.

“She didn’t want to take him out,” Naclerio said. “She just felt like that, for whatever reason, she had to do it, and every time she tried to give us a reason it was tough for her. Academically, she wanted him to do better but it’s not like he was doing bad.”

The 6-9 Lawrence, who has offers from St. John’s, Xavier, Virginia Tech and Florida, sat out Cardozo’s last two games with a knee injury and was on the bench Tuesday when the Judges beat Beach Channel. Naclerio said that he doesn’t think that the versatile forward wanted to leave. The statement from the Lawrence family said they would not make any further statements.

“I’m just dumfounded,” he said. “I love him as a kid. I wish could coach him again. I’m going to be routing for him.”

Naclerio maintained that he believed there’s more to the story. He said the player’s mother broke down during the meeting with him and Cardozo principal Gerald Matori saying “Coach he loves you he never wanted to leave you.”

Lawrence averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Judges in eight league games this season. Naclerio said he did not speak to Lawrence but sent a text message wishing him luck.

“I’m one of these guys, 31 years as a head coach, 5 years as assistant, 36 years, people that love me tell me I take this way, way, way too serious,” Naclerio said. “For me to feel the way I’m feeling now, if there’s something I could have done differently, I would have been over his house, working him out, checking up on him academically. I feel like I failed.”