When Jaquan Lynch envisioned the perfect environment to go to college and play basketball, the Coney Island native thought of Miami. He knew it last winter when Thomas Jefferson played in a nearby tournament.
So when new Florida International University coach Richard Pitino, son of legendary Rick Pitino, offered Lynch a scholarship, the Orange Wave rising senior knew right away it was the perfect fit.
Lynch thought about it for two days before verbally committing to FIU Sunday on his nearly three-hour bus ride back from Reading, Pa., site of the Hoop Group Team Camp.
The 6-foot combo guard also had offers from Hofstra, Quinnipiac, Dayton, UMBC and Canisius, but Pitino and new assistant coach Kimani Young, a former Rice assistant and director at New Heights, sealed the deal, landing one of the city’s top rising seniors.
“That’s the area I wanted to be in, I love the coaching staff, I knew Kimani since I was a little boy just coming into the basketball world an Coach Pitino seems like a very cool coach,” Lynch said.
According to Thomas Jefferson coach Lawrence (Bud) Pollard, Pitino placed a high priority on landing Lynch when the two spoke.
“We spoke about their roster, what they were trying to do with it, where he fit in their style of play and Coach Pitino made him his first option,” Pollard said. “Early in the open period, coaches made a choice of who were their primary guys and Coach Pitino made the choice that Jaquan was his primary guy for 2013.”
Lynch, who was also being actively recruited by Stony Brook and Eastern Illinois, was the Orange Wave’s primary guy at the start of last season when star Thaddeus Hall was sidelined. Lynch’s meteoric rise began in a high-profile non-league game in December against Christ the King, a game broadcast by MSG Varsity.
“The first two games I didn’t do so good and Thaddeus wasn’t playing, but that third game against Christ the King, I just woke up and felt differently,” he said. “I had some sort of powers or something. I had  and I just started going crazy after that.”
Lynch continued to carry the Orange Wave in Hall’s absence and when the South Carolina-bound guard returned, Lynch had no problem stepping aside, a quality that impressed Pollard.
“I like the fact that he was very unselfish when Thaddeus returned,” Pollard said. “He had no problem deferring and being a sidekick for a superhero and being a second option after leading the league in scoring. It really put the team in a situation that allowed us to make the run we made.”
Lynch finished a remarkable junior season averaging 20.5 points per game, helping lead Jefferson to the PSAL Class AA final at Madison Square Garden and earning second team All-City honors by MSG Varsity. College coaches took notice and Lynch didn’t slow down in the summer.
It resulted in a scholarship offer from FIU, which is rebuilding and will play in Conference USA a year from now.
It’s just what Lynch wanted, but he’s not about to relax. In fact, verbally committing to FIU has given Lynch extra incentive heading into his senior season.
“It feels good, it’s motivating me to be even better as a student and a basketball player,” Lynch said. “I know I have things to work on and I have to get better in that classroom. I need to get better as a person first, get better on the court and then everything is going to fall in place.”
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