DeJuan Pursley is a terrific basketball prospect that needed a challenge in his life. A new surrounding couldn't have hurt either. That's how and why the Parma, Ohio product landed at the Massachusetts prep school Lawrence Academy.
The 6-8 sophomore power forward is playing this season in Groton, Mass., averaging 16 points and 9.8 rebounds a game to go with his league leading 5.0 blocks a game in the small New England Prep League for Lawrence.
Pursley came to Lawrence Academy from Valley Forge High School in Parma, where his AAU coach, Tim Hewitt, coach of the Cleveland Titans, wanted to help Pursley both academically and athletically. That's when he found a willing mentor in Lawrence head coach, Kevin Wiercinski.
Wiercinski is very happy with the progress shown by Pursley, especially academically.
"He's doing better," Wiercinski noted. "Certainly coming from the academic environment he was in to the rigorous prep school work we have here was an eye-opener for him. But he has definitely improved, let's just put it that way. He will be fine."
"Both academically and in terms of basketball he's progressing nicely. I would expect DeJuan to be in good shape," he concluded.
Although it's still pretty early in his high school career, Pursley has drawn interest from several top programs, including Ohio State.
Wiercinski noted the Buckeyes' interest, as well as interest from others.
"They're watching him, of course," he said. "There's a lot of people calling and asking if he (Pursley) is out here and how he's doing. Since he's just a sophomore, they are building the foundation right now. They haven't yet made the full sell, but I'm sure most of these teams will be in the future."
Pursley really came into his own over the last half of the season, according to Wiercinski. According to the coach, it was mostly the mental and emotional aspect of his development that held him back at all.
But if talent is any indication, that's no longer an obstacle.
"The biggest transition he had to make was simply to come out here and adjust," Wiercinski explained. "That was the biggest hurdle, but once he got here, he has played really well."
"He's a really talented kid. He's long, he's quick, and he's got a lot of tools," Wiercinski added.
In the eyes of Wiercinski, Pursley could play either the four or five at the next level. Right now, Pursley seems best suited to life in the paint.
"I think his game is suited more naturally for playing center," Wiercinski said. "With a little hard work, he could probably play both. He's a little uncomfortable shooting the ball out to 15 (feet). He doesn't handle the ball bad, and he is capable of playing out there, but I just think right now he's more comfortable around the block."
All and all, Pursley is someone to keep a close eye on.
Wiercinski expects Pursley to succeed. He actually expects big things out of him, and not just succeeding.
"He's one of those kids that between now and the time he arrives on a
college campus, if he puts in the hard work and he works on whatever you want
out of him, he's going to do very well," Wiercinski said. "He's will
be in the weight room to add some strength, which he can certainly use a little.
But he has a lot of raw ability, a lot of drive, and he is going to make a coach