Manhattan won't have to wait long to find out if a change of scenery can help Jermaine Lawrence become the difference-maker he was projected to be out of high school.
The 6-foot-9 Cincinnati transfer received a waiver and will be eligible to play right away during the 2014-15 season, Jaspers head coach Steve Masiello announced on Wednesday. Lawrence left the Bearcats this spring so he could be closer to his ailing father in Springfield Gardens, N.Y.
It will be fascinating to see how much Lawrence can contribute at Manhattan because his freshman season in Cincinnnati was a disappointment.
A consensus five-star recruit rated as high as No. 19 in the Class of 2013, Lawrence arrived in Cincinnati as the second-highest-rated prospect of the Mick Cronin era, but he never hit his stride as a freshman. The long, athletic big man averaged only 2.8 points and 2.7 rebounds and shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from the foul line, also suffering a toe injury that sidelined him for a month during league play.
Manhattan is hoping that another year to mature and being closer to home will help Lawrence further tap into his potential. He is big enough to overpower many forwards in the MAAC and quick enough to take many MAAC centers off the dribble.
If Lawrence emerges as an impact player, it will make an already formidable Manhattan frontcourt even better. With Ashton Pankey and Emmy Andujar also back from last year's NCAA tournament team that pushed defending national champion Louisville in the opening round, the Jaspers will match up favorably inside with even many of the high-major teams on their schedule.
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