The Cincinnati Bearcats received a commitment on Sunday from their No. 1 recruiting target, ESPN 100 power forward Jermaine Lawrence of Springfield Gardens, N.Y.
Ranked the No. 19 overall prospect in the Class of 2013 by ESPN, Lawrence pledged to Mick Cronin's team over St. John's and will move the Bearcats to No. 24 in the ESPN class rankings. UNLV was also in the mix for Lawrence.
From the start of last year's spring recruiting period, Lawrence had been the top target overall for the Bearcats. Despite being sidelined with a wrist injury that would later require surgery, Cronin and his staff remained committed to Lawrence. They realized it was an all-or-nothing situation with the power forward and that the backup plans were not plentiful.
Lawrence saw exactly what Cincinnati thought of him.
"When they started coming to my school, they made me feel like they really wanted me," Lawrence said. "I was definitely their guy."
In late July last summer, it became apparent Lawrence's injury was more serious than previously thought. At the Elite 24 showcase in August, Lawrence attended but did not play. He would later have surgery on his right wrist and didn't return to action for Pope John XXIII High School until last month.
During his recovery process, Lawrence continued to debate the merits of St. John's, Cincinnati and UNLV. The Rebels had former AAU teammate Savon Goodman on the roster and were a factor. But in the end, it was down to Cronin's Bearcats against Steve Lavin's Red Storm.
"It was back and forth," Lawrence said. "It was hard to make a decision. St. John's is my hometown school."
Regardless, Cincinnati has done well with NYC talent. Former Bearcats players Kenny Satterfield and Lance Stephenson, both McDonald's All-Americans, were from New York.
"New York City players have gone there and then been comfortable," Lawrence said. "I started thinking, Why can't I be comfortable there?"
Lawrence becomes the top-rated recruit in a Cincinnati 2013 recruiting class that also features point guard Kevin Johnson (Cincinnati/Summit Country Day), shooting guard Troy Caupain (Midlothian, Va./Cosby), small forward DeShaun Morman (Washington, D.C./Faith Baptist Christian) and center Jamaree Strickland (Oakland, Calif./Queen City Prep).