Manhattan College has been hindered by injuries to start off its ’15-’16 road to a third-straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, appearing in the last three and having won two of those championship games. Those bitten by the bug have cut deeply into the staple depth of its roster.
Steve Masiello, head men’s basketball coach, has been able to dress as little as six players to as many as nine out of the potential 14. He has been asked repeatedly, in many different ways, at almost every post-game press conference how much of an impact the lack of a rotation and overuse, in terms of minutes, of players such as Shane Richards has had.
“The game is changed, in the sense that as coaches we got to watch what we do with injuries,” Masiello said after the Nov. 28, 87-64, loss to Bronx rival Fordham University. “How much we push, look into things. … Some seem like they’re going to be some time and others seem more of the nagging type. We haven’t been able to practice in probably, I’d say, 12 days. We only have five or six bodies. We’re bringing in Rhamel Brown to practice. It’s what it is. I’m trying, hoping we can get back. I’m trusting the training staff to do what we need to do to get guys back, but I just go on with what I’m told.”
A player name he has mentioned quite frequently as someone it could use is now former student-athlete Jermaine Lawrence. He’s not a former Jasper because he has transferred or graduated. It’s due to his withdrawal from Manhattan after finding out he’d be suspended for half of the season.
All of this after Lawrence was told in September, when he tested positive for marijuana, that he’d only miss the Nov. 9 exhibition game against Adelphi and that he’d be enrolled in the drug counseling and treatment program at St. John’s Riverside Hospital. Everything just said is the equivalent of a first positive test result.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported in a letter he obtained by him sent to Lawrence on Sept. 4 “it was documented that a second positive test would result in a 50 percent reduction in athletic scholarship aid.”
Now is when the story rewinds to last February. Masiello sat Lawrence out of one game for an undisclosed incident — due to legal ramifications — that occurred off the court. Lawrence and his family understood school penalty and complied. But over the next five games he had yet to check into a game.
Lawrence’s mother, Marcia Lawrence, said the Manhattan athletic department asked him to take a drug test prior to what happened in February but he refused because of its randomness. She thinks the athletic department used his refusal as an additional penalty for what he did in September, although it was made clear between Lawrence, his mother and Masiello that September was his first offense.
“The incident that took place in February, which is what they were trying to use as their stepping stone for saying September was the second offense wasn’t something that had anything to do with Jermaine to begin with,” Marcia Lawrence said.
She didn’t hear anything about Lawrence missing half the season and losing half of his athletic scholarship until two months later and just a few days before the Adelphi exhibition game.
Fast-forward to Jermaine’s decision to withdraw, he said even after deciding to appeal the suspension — which a decision has yet to be disclosed — was solely based on the idea that moving on was in his best interest, despite him and his family thinking the appeal board were unbiased
“We support the health and well-being of all of our students,” a member of athletics said in a statement, “and withhold comment on any internal issues involving our students.”
Lawrence and his mother said they feel “disappointed” because when Masiello was an assistant at Louisville and Rasheen Davis, former Manhattan assistant and currently in the same position at Virginia Commonwealth, was an assistant at Xavier, Louisville and Xavier were two of the three first schools to offer Lawrence a scholarship. The other being Virginia Tech.
When Lawrence and his family saw Masiello and Davis were coaching together at Manhattan, they described it as a “divine thing.”
“We feel pissed and betrayed by Manhattan,” Marcia said. “Just in terms of no one really cares about your child apparently but you, when it comes down to it. Mas definitely cares about his players. And Rasheen is the same way. The basketball team are a group of supportive men. But with the administration, a complete distrust for the athletic department. They just play too many mind games.”
“Mas is a great coach,” Lawrence said, “and he’s an even better dude off the court.”
Through this entire process, Marcia Lawrence said her son has kept to a “great energy, spirit.” Before he withdrew, he still attended and participated in Manhattan Madness — the college’s annual tip-off to the new basketball season.
“It could be bothering him deeper than he’s expressing,” Marcia Lawrence said, “but he’s not showing it, he’s definitely just pressing forward. He worked out the whole weekend [when the team traveled to Saint Mary’s for its first game of the season]. That’s big. If that was me, I wouldn’t come out of my dorm. I wouldn’t know who to trust.”
As of Nov. 16, Marcia Lawrence said she and Jermaine are looking at all the options available to them to see where he can return to the court. Some of those include sitting out a full year at another Division I program, dropping down a level and play at a D II or III college or to go pro. She said a decision is imminent.
“I’ve made a poor choice,” Jermaine said in a statement exclusively given to “The Quadrangle” on Nov. 17, “but learning from my mistakes are part of me growing up and becoming wiser. I’ve complied with everything asked of me. There isn’t a student-athlete in this country on any campus that deserves what’s been done to me. I worked hard for my opportunities. My family has invested time, money and resources to make sure I can live out my dreams. This is about self-accountability, I can take personal responsibility for my actions.”
More photos of Lawrence below…