From Right to Left

Last year, I covered Sylven Landesberg’s announcement of his college selection for the Torch.

He was the big New York City recruit at the time; a 6-6, 200-pound shooting guard ranked among the Top-50 seniors in the country and St. John’s was on a short list of his potential colleges.

The hope among my fellow Torch sportswriters was that Landesberg would pick St. John’s, decide to stay in New York City, and opt to try his hand at bringing back to prominence this once illustrious program.

The press conference was held in the basement gym of Holy Cross High School in Queens, where Landesberg was a student. I took a seat among the professional sportswriters and their notebooks.

Soon enough Landesberg got to the microphone and started to speak. “And that is why I have decided to go to…,” he said. And he took off his blazer jacket to reveal a Virginia Cavaliers basketball T-shirt. As a journalist, my hand scribbled as evenly as any of the professionals around me, but as a fan and a New Yorker, my heart sank.
Landesberg was probably the biggest recruit head coach Norm Roberts had seriously pursued in his time at St. John’s. And the New York kid said no.

And it just seems that as we search for what, or who, will save this program from mediocrity and worse, the only feasible solution is a New Yorker. It just has always been that way; whether it was Chris Mullin, or Walter Berry, or Erick Barkley, or even Omar Cook or Ron Artest.

And the question I faced last year was, is there anyone out there willing to save us?
Well maybe there is. On August 20, Omari Lawrence, a Bronx shooting guard, verbally committed to this University. He can’t sign a letter of intent to come to Queens until November because of NCAA rules.

Lawrence, at 6-4, isn’t the best high school senior to call the greatest city in the world home, but he’s pretty close. He was recruited by UConn, Memphis, Clemson, Virginia, Marquette, Louisville, Arizona and Xavier and he picked St. John’s. This is a great sign.

Just read what has to say about him: “Attacking guard who creates in both the half-court and in transition. Can spot up and shoot, but is at his best when going to the hoop. Also one of the more polished defenders on the high school level. Doesn’t take plays off; competes with great intensity.”

But this is even heavier than Lawrence’s 205-pound frame. This is proof that there is some kid out there who has the same love for the basketball storyline of this city that we all do. And it’s an example to the other great New York hoops prospects that it’s a storyline that still is worth being a part of.

Who knows, maybe this will sway Lance Stephenson, who at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, is the best high school recruit in New York, and beyond. Maybe he’ll look at Lawrence and give St. John’s some extra consideration because of it.

Maybe in four seasons we’ll have five New York City-born basketball stars on the floor and be competing in the NCAA Tournament.

Or maybe I’m just going too far.
But I’ve heard rumors that Lou Carnesecca once said, “The only thing you have to do to recruit in this city is go outside.” Great basketball talent surrounds us and maybe it will save us.