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Omari Lawrence will transfer from St. John's

Forward Omari Lawrence, one of the final recruits of the Norm Roberts era, has decided to transfer. First reported by, Lawrence tweeted to a friend on Saturday, “I’m done with the big east my boii,” adding, “it will be public by monday.”

This brings an end to the short and frustrating career for Omari Lawrence at St. John’s. In such a long rotation that Roberts used last year, at times as deep as 11 players, Lawrence saw limited playing time and displeasure grew between player and coach. Averaging just under 10 minutes per game, Lawrence averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in his freshman year.

Being highly recruited by schools such as UConn and Louisville, Lawrence was rated an 87 out of 100 on ESPN’s Insider recruiting, but that hype never panned out in his time with the Red Storm. Perhaps because of lack of playing time, or perhaps because he didn’t quite adjust to the pace of Big East basketball, the quickness and explosive game that scouts raved about never came to light. Is that to say that those skills are not there? Absolutely not. Having watched him in practice and workouts, it is clear that under the right coaching and given enough playing time, Lawrence could turn into a solid college player if he improves his ballhandling and mid-range game. Roberts, most times, used him as a defensive specialist and he flourished at that end of the floor. His unrelenting, ball-hawkish defense will take him far if paired with an outside offensive game.

A smaller school seems the fit for Lawrence, who was unable to get off the bench often in his one season in Queens. Jamie Harris, a guard at Drexel to whom Lawrence’s tweet was directed, has become a quality guard in the CAA, averaging 14.5 points for the Dragons this past season. Perhaps the same fate belies Lawrence who, with his 6’4″, 215 lb frame could be a force in a conference such as the CAA. Many players have transferred to smaller conferences and it just seems to be a better fit for them, giving them playing time and helping them become more complete players in the process. It would be great to see him star athletically and academically, wherever he may find it.

But what does this mean for St. John’s? Having just signed Los Angeles Player of the Year Dwayne Polee Jr., it seemed that he would be the one recruit coming in this year. But, with Lawrence out, it opens up the door for another highly-touted recruit that Coach Steve Lavin has had his eye on for a while, French-born Remi Barry of Del Oro High School near Sacramento. Scouts says Barry, with his 6’7″ athletic frame, he would fit well in the Big East. He can shoot off the catch, something admirable in a big man and could help solve the stalling that St. John’s has had in the half-court offense the past few seasons. Some say that, after two years under a good coaching staff like Lavin’s, he could be NBA material, something that St. John’s has been missing for far too long.

This year for the YBA Dawgs, Barry averaged 24 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. If St. John’s added him to the mix, he would be a perfect complement to other freshman recruit Dwayne Polee Jr. Where Polee will run the floor, get to the basket, and use his athleticism to create, Barry can slow things down, use his back-to-the-basket game, and knock down jumpers from the outside. Developments will come with both players, but if Lavin can pull off another magic trick and land Barry, St. John’s fans will have yet another reason to be excited for a very promising 2010-2011 season. In an article by Adam Zagoria of SNY, Barry was quoted as saying, “I have top three. UCLA, St. John’s and Arizona State,” stating no favorite. But, in the same article, Barry’s coach Doc Haynes was quoted as saying, “Right now he’s considering St. John’s as the frontrunner.”

Coach Steve Lavin has had his eye on California recruit Remi Barry

Not to play this tune too much, but it’s worth mentioning: this is the power of bringing in a coach like Steve Lavin. Players want to come play here because they feel that he offers the tools that they need to get them to the next level. That was missing during the Roberts era, and is here and will stay here with Lavin. The lights of Madison Square Garden, the city life of a college kid, and the means to get you to the next level. How could a recruit resist?

-Dan Martin


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