Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Tom Keegan: Taking transfers has its advantages

Memphis’ Dedric Lawson in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Memphis’ Dedric Lawson in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)


I was walking along whatever the name of that street is in the French Quarter of New Orleans where inexperienced drinkers on vacation drink hurricanes as if they’re strawberry lemonades and then leave proof of their foolishness in unsightly globs that leave the rest on alert with every step.

I looked in a window to a small establishment, where an old friend I hadn’t seen in years sat alone at the bar, where if memory serves he had just finished a meal. I joined him and after a few minutes his phone rang.

The caller ID said Rick Majerus and I told my old friend, Gene Wojciechowski of the Los Angeles Times, to include me in any plans. Before Wojciechowski answered, I told him to tell Majerus he had not eaten and would love to join him and bring a former Marquette student of his with him.

And on that night during the 2012 Final Four weekend, I was able to spend three hours with Majerus, which was more time than I had spent with him combined in 33 years to that point since taking his “Theory of Coaching” class. Majerus died eight months later.

I reminded Majerus of what he once told me off the record and told him I had never shared that with anybody. He couldn’t believe he told me that and said, “I must have trusted you because I didn’t share that with many people at all.” I came to know him while covering the Marquette team for which he was an assistant coach in 1980-81 and through his compelling class.

I reminded Majerus in New Orleans of two of the lessons learned in his class. The first: “During timeouts,” Majerus said from the front of the classroom in 1981, “don’t say, ‘Listen up!’ Tell them, ‘Give me your eyes!’ If you have their eyes, you have their attention.”

He emphatically pointed two fingers toward his own eyes when he said, “Give me your eyes!”

It was a good tip.

Majerus also said, “I love transfers because once they transfer, you’ve got them. They don’t have anywhere to go. They have to do it your way. They’re out of options.”

The rules have changed a little since then, but his point remains relevant. You can blame your first chosen coach for things not working out. You make a habit of that and you’re branded in a way that will be detrimental to your basketball career.

Taking advantage of today’s graduate-transfer rule, some players compete for three different schools before exhausting their eligibility.

Others might choose to practice a year at a school and then bolt for the draft. But for the most part, the reason Majerus liked the idea of taking transfers applies today.

Kansas rocked the college basketball recruiting world Monday with news that 6-foot-9, 236-pound Dedric Lawson (19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.3 steals) and his 6-7 brother K.J. Lawson (12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists) who played for a Memphis squad that lost six of seven games at season’s end, will transfer to Kansas and be eligible for the 2018-19 season.

K.J. is a year older, but both have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Their father, Keelon Lawson, went to Memphis as part of the package as an assistant coach to Josh Pastner and was demoted to a non-recruiting role by Tubby Smith, who took the job after Pastner bolted for Georgia Tech.

Don’t look for dad to join Bill Self’s coaching staff, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try to be heard. He has two more talented basketball sons, which makes either him or Lavar Ball the Rick Barry of his generation, although to be fair, Barry’s basketball sons span the generations and Canyon Barry was mighty impressive in the NCAA tournament for Florida.

Anyone who thinks Self will change the way he coaches the Lawson brothers with an eye to pleasing Keelon Lawson so that he steers his two other sons to become Jayhawks isn’t very familiar with Self’s style.

If Keelon Lawson trusts Self enough to handle the basketball portion of his sons’ lives, there’s a good chance they’ll improve enough that Keelon will want to send his next two sons to Lawrence.

If he meddles nonstop, well, who knows? The upside benefit outweighs the downside risk, which is minimal. What’s the worst that can happen? They practice one year, play one and one leaves for the NBA, the other for a third school? That’s not so bad. They won’t blow up team chemistry because Self won’t allow that to happen.


Suzi Marshall 4 years, 9 months ago

The other great thing about taking transfers is you get to evaluate them against Div. 1 competition. It's much less of a risk than a HS kid going 30/15 against The Little Sisters of the Poor. A second transfer is a tough proposition because the rule states you get 5 years to play 4. An appeal for 6 years to play 4 because the player is fickle might not land on many sympathetic ears within the NCAA.

As for the Lawsons, whom I don't know at all and never seen play, every article that allows comments seems to have a bunch of negatives, although that isn't all that surprising since more than a few Memphis fans are mad. Nevertheless, they all seem to point to his NBA combine results for Dedric that said he "tested as the worst athlete that participated in the combine. He struggled to shoot and didn't show the perimeter skills a point forward needs to show at the combine."

Sounds to me like he can use a good year with Hudy to develop his athleticism and the coaching staff to develop his perimeter skills. Nevertheless, I'm extremely happy to have a guy that can rack up his kind of numbers in and around the paint. To me, he sounds like a Morris of Black type of player. I'm more than confident the Lawsons will be able to develop their skills at Kansas....if they want to work hard.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 9 months ago

The downside of transfers is that it is a roster spot that is filled by an ineligible player. That hurt the depth this past year with multiple players with that status, though the flip side is that Coach Self rarely ever goes even 10 deep. It is just that with ineligible players, there are no options if someone gets injured or otherwise becomes unavailable.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 9 months ago

Dirk, if I am not mistaken, the option is always there to activate a player off of red shirt status, however, that season automatically gets burned no matter whether you have 30 games or 3 games left on the schedule. At least that's the way it used to be. {Anyone, please correct me if I am wrong. Maybe that's only in football?]

Michael Bennett 4 years, 9 months ago

If a player transfers he must sit out a year. He cannot be activated sooner and then burn a year of eligibility.

Stephen Burtin 4 years, 9 months ago

Tony, you are correct about red shirt players, however, in the case of a transfer player, the year they have to sit out is mandatory (per NCAA rules) and the player cannot play for two full semesters after transfer. This means that even though they will be red shirting, we cannot, at any time next season, bring either of the two transfer players off of the bench.

This is why Malik Newman and Sam Cunliffe never played last season. In Cunliffe's case, he transferred before second semester this year, which means he has already sat out 1 semester and will be eligible to play after first semester next season. Malik transferred after he played a full season at Miss. State and has now sat out his 2 semesters and will be eligible to play for KU at the beginning of next season.

Tim Orel 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm hoping the result is more like Ed Manning than Lavar Ball. I realize Keelon Lawson won't be on Bill Self's staff like Ed Manning was, but I don't recall Ed ever being anything but pro-KU for Danny. Another example would be Mario Chalmer's father.

My all-time favorite was Keith Langford's Mom, KLM, who contributed on here (I believe it was really her), with Mrs. Morris a close second because of how she tried to be a mother away from home for not just her two sons but other players who wanted home cooked meals and more.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 9 months ago

There are exceptions on the transfer rule. If a program is put on probation, there have been cases where immediate eligibility has been granted to transfers who leave that program. At least is was true in the past. Perhaps the rules have changed since, but I'm not aware of it.

It doesn't really matter, though, because it isn't applicable in this case.

The Lawson transfers are a "gold mine", not only for what they can contribute to the program, but for what might happen down the road with their brothers.

I believe that Mr. Lawson will indeed be more like Ed Manning than Lavar Ball. Bill Self wouldn't have it any other way. Not sure you can say the same about Steve Alford at UCLA. Not that he could have had some influence on toning Mr. Ball down, but he certainly didn't try as best as I can tell.

The fact that Lonzo confirmed his decision to leave school in his locker room post game comments after losing to Kentucky tells volumes about how much of the year was about him versus the UCLA program. That's a stark contrast to Josh Jackson, who undoubtedly will leave but who, in my opinion, has delayed the announcement for the right time out of respect for the KU program.

Dale Rogers 4 years, 9 months ago

All of these guys are eligible to play in Italy this summer, right? Even those mandated to sit out next season?

Bryce Landon 4 years, 9 months ago

If the Lawson brothers can help us get to that elusive 15th Final Four, then I'm all for having them on the team.

Edward Daub 4 years, 9 months ago

Rick Majerus certainly worked his way up the Coaching Ranks at Marquette. And he also loved a good Sheboygan Bratwurst! I can relate to him having spent a few years of my youth in Wisconsin. Al McGuire , his mentor, was always one of my favorites.

Rick coached UTAH to the 1998 NCAA Title Game losing to Kentucky (coached by Tubby Smith, a bit of irony). That Defeat was hard on Rick.

When Rick was a Color Analyst for ESPN, he would often say about the NCAA Tourney. "Players win Games, Coaching is Over Rated"! I think he was saying that coaches get too much blame when their team loses and prehaps too much credit when their team wins.

Great Article! Thanks for the Memories!

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