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Monday, April 8, 2019

KU’s Dedric Lawson eager to utilize skills gained at Kansas to carve out NBA career

Junior forward officially declares for 2019 draft

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson reacts after scoring a basket during overtime of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. Kansas defeated Tennessee 87-81. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson reacts after scoring a basket during overtime of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. Kansas defeated Tennessee 87-81. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

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The end, for Dedric Lawson, came sooner than he would have liked, but losing in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament instead of leading the Jayhawks to a national title did nothing to take away from Lawson’s experience at Kansas.

“KU was definitely the best experience I had in my collegiate career,” Lawson told the Journal-World during a Monday afternoon phone call from Los Angeles about five hours after announcing his intentions to declare for the NBA Draft on Twitter. “The fans supported me 1,000 percent. They came to away games, they packed Allen Fieldhouse every single night. KU is an awesome place to play. Everyone should go there. I mean, I know you only get 13 scholarships, but KU is the best place to be to help jumpstart your career and develop as a player and as a person, as well.”

For Lawson, both parts of that equation came true during his two years with the Jayhawks.

After transferring to Kansas before the 2017-18 season, following a statistically successful two-year career at Memphis, Lawson ended his college run with a bang, averaging 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season.

His 22 double-doubles rank third on KU’s all-time single season list — behind Thomas Robinson (27) and Drew Gooden (25) — but Lawson leaves KU believing he got so much more than solid stats out of his time in Lawrence.

“Man, just being disciplined,” he said when asked what area he improved the most. “You take things for granted sometimes and at KU I realized you have to take care of your body and get proper rest and understand how to compete. It’s more mental than anything. You just really learn how to go out there and play at a high level and how to play the right way.”

As for how he reached the decision to leave, Kansas coach Bill Self said Monday that Lawson told him of his intentions to forego his senior season a couple of days after KU’s loss to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Self again marveled at the monster season put up by his best player.

“Dedric had such a great year,” Self said. “There are not very many players who have played at Kansas, or players that I have coached, that average 19 points and 10-plus rebounds in a season. I feel like it is in his best interest to use this year as a springboard into his professional future. He could not have represented our program, the university or his family any better than how he did. All Jayhawk fans should be excited for him. … We totally support his decision and wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

Although flattered and appreciative, Lawson said he did not need to read such a sentiment online to feel it from the man for whom he spent the past two seasons playing.

“Me and coach talked some over the last couple of days and he told me how proud he was of me and that just gave me extra confidence going into the draft process,” Lawson told the Journal-World. “He said he’s going to be 100 percent behind me; he’s done nothing but support me the whole way and I’m very thankful for that. But Coach Self also made sure I knew the work had yet to be done. There’s a lot more work to be do and I’m just taking it day by day and plan on putting in a lot of extra work.”

Despite having a feeling for which direction he wanted to go, Lawson needed a little help to make it official. So a few days after the season ended, he went home to Memphis to discuss his plans with his parents. While all three people involved in those discussions had a good feel for what the decision would be, Lawson said it helped to talk it out and make sure he was ready.

“They asked me what I wanted to do,” he said. “Throughout the season it wasn’t really on my mind much, but after that last game, it was over with, and it kind of hit me.”

Lawson, who was visibly upset and emotional in the locker room following the loss to Auburn, said the end of it all had something to do with the tears that flowed. But he was more than thrilled to report that the tears back then had been replaced Monday with a never-ending smile.

“Man, it was just like a dream turning to reality,” he said of the moment he posted his news to Twitter. “It’s something you dream of growing up as a kid, to declare for the draft. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, but I also wanted to make sure it was the best situation for me to do it so I could go in and play right away in the NBA.”

Make no mistake about it. That’s the goal for the 6-foot-9 forward who said he planned to work on his NBA 3-point shot and getting stronger during the next month or so leading up to the combine.

Lawson has talked with people about representing him and plans to hire an agent to help with the process. He’ll spend the next five weeks or so working out in Los Angeles and is looking forward to showcasing his new body and complete game for NBA scouts at the pre-draft combine in Chicago in mid-May.

He spoke of spending the next several weeks working on taking his skills from high school, Memphis and KU and “putting it all together” to build the best and most complete version of himself to put on display at the combine.

“I definitely feel underrated,” Lawson told the Journal-World. “And I feel like there’s some parts of my game that people really take for granted and don’t realize I have. I’m looking forward to putting in the work and showing people what I can do.”

Although Lawson sounds determined to move on, the door for a potential return to KU could remain open in a couple of different ways.

The first kicks in if he requests and receives an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. Such a move would allow him to work with an agent — who must be certified by the NBA Players Association — through the pre-draft process and still return to school provided he pulls his name out of the draft pool by the May 29 deadline.

The second allows Lawson to retain his representation all the way through the draft but would require two things following the June 20 draft. First, Lawson would have to go undrafted. Second, if he does not get picked and wants to return to Kansas, he then would have to sever all ties with his agent before returning to Kansas.

Both paths seem unlikely for the 6-foot-9 forward who has been showing up on various mock draft boards as a solid second-round selection.

Lawson’s news makes him the third player this month to reveal his decision to leave Kansas (sophomores Charlie Moore and K.J. Lawson plan to transfer) and brings the uncertainty surrounding KU’s current roster down to three players — junior center Udoka Azubuike, sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa and freshman guard Quentin Grimes.

Azubuike and Grimes are both considered potential early-entry candidates. When asked recently by the Journal-World about the status of his players with decisions to make, Self said he would encourage all of his players interested in testing their NBA draft stock to do so.

“I do believe we’re in a situation where some guys are going to test, without question,” Self told the Journal-World. “And that wouldn’t surprise me nor would that disappoint me at all. I think that’s something that should be looked into and certain guys should consider.”

As for De Sousa, he and his representation remain engaged in an appeal of his 2-year suspension by the NCAA, the results of which likely will play a big role in determining De Sousa’s immediate future.

If the appeal is denied or the process drags on, De Sousa, too, could wind up a candidate for early-entry testing. If De Sousa wins the appeal, many close to the program expect him to return to KU for his junior season.

Azubuike, Grimes and potentially De Sousa have until April 21 to declare their intentions to enter the 2019 NBA Draft.

Provided they meet the deadlines and follow the guidelines for retaining their college eligibility from there, all three would have until May 29 to pull their name out of the draft and return to Kansas.

Comments

Ryan Zimmerman 2 months, 1 week ago

Predictions anyone? I'm guessing 56th pick

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 1 week ago

I think I'll go higher than that coming in at 45. Dedric can made an immediate impact on several NBA teams. He has the skills, work ethic, and will have several years in the NBA

Brad Avery 2 months, 1 week ago

Dedric has skills, but there are big holes in his game relative to the NBA. He is not the most athletic kid, he does not play interior post defense particularly well and is not someone you want taking a lot of treys. He probably won't be back to KU, but I would not be shocked if he finds the demand for his skill limited and pulls a Vick.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 1 week ago

Pull a Vick? Not sure where you heard that but I've heard he has a sharp head and is very motivated. Dedric isn't the most athletic players in the conference much less the league, but like KD and MANY others he can still found a home in the NBA

I am NOT saying Dedric is the next KD but Dedric will have his shot to overcome his lack of athleticism.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 1 week ago

By "pull a Vick" he means declare and then decide late to come back, not do the negatives Vick's done over the years.

Barry Weiss 2 months, 1 week ago

Dedric had such an amazing year. Very, very intelligent player to put up those stats while not having a Zion type frame.

Len Shaffer 2 months, 1 week ago

I agree, yet I don't think he'll play in the NBA. Believe me, I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not sure if any of his skills are top-level enough to compete against NBA players. I see him having a long, successful career overseas if he chooses to go there.

Steve Zimmerman 2 months, 1 week ago

I wish he maintained his block #s, though. But, his 22s were amazing, though.

Brian Leslie 2 months, 1 week ago

Dedric was a master of finding narrow windows to get his shot off. The problem in the NBA is that if he's playing in the post, A) it's unlikely that a team with Dedric on the deep bench is going to make Dedric the focal point of the 2nd unit, and B) those windows just won't be there, as everybody is stronger, much faster, has a much better vertical leap.

Dedric also isn't fast enough to be a guy who can switch on the perimeter on defense. He couldn't do it at the college level. I do think he could develop NBA 3-pt range, so there's that.

Slightly different circumstances, but I could easily see him going undrafted like Perry Ellis. The skills that made Dedric a great college player don't translate to the NBA. But no shame in making money playing overseas. He's been in college 4 years (1 redshirt), and it's time.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 1 week ago

Your biggest mistake is that you are still thinking in the traditional two guards, two forwards and one center. The game has evolved greatly and the three-point shot is the reason why.

Points in the paint are worth less than points at the perimeter. Dirk Nowitzki was one of those players whose impact on the game is still growing. When you have 7-foot players knocking down threes, adjustments had to be made.

I think Dedric is a little more crafty than you give them credit for. Guess we will find out.

Adam Bengtson 2 months, 1 week ago

The prediction is that even at draft evaluations or combine (whatever they do) is since it’s a scrimmage players will rely on athleticism, which he doesn’t have and will struggle. He will go undrafted and we will all say what the hell was he thinking. This doesn’t end well for him. Might as well soak up limelight in college and possibly move up just based on numbers next year.

This crap about teams who are good picking him up and he can be solid off the bench is just crap. Those players are released within 2-3 years.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 1 week ago

There is a lot of money available for overseas players so it's not a do or die NBA thing. He can go undrafted, never sniff the NBA, and still make millions.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 1 week ago

Happy for this young fella. He'll have a long and productive career in the league.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 1 week ago

I'll hold my congrats until after you sign the 1st of many contracts.

Mark Wooden 2 months, 1 week ago

I would thinking dropping out of school(classes) was a strong indicator. Good Luck!

Len Shaffer 2 months, 1 week ago

What are the odds of Silvio's appeal being decided by the deadline of April 21st, one in a million??? I would think you'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than to count on the NCAA deciding anything that quickly.

In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the NCAA hadn't resolved the appeal by the beginning of next season. If I were Silvio, I would definitely declare.

Trey Hohman 2 months, 1 week ago

If Dedeic develops a solid 3-point stroke %-wise he could be some version of Robert Horry in this modern NBA. Either way he kinda reminds me of Robert Horry.

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 1 week ago

He shot 40% this year and was actually at 45% the second half of the year. He just struggled early but once he found his stroke, he was our best perimeter shooter.

Matthew Pyle 2 months, 1 week ago

NBA? Wow. No chance. Nice player, but not a pro....just not athletic enough.

Stuart Corder 2 months, 1 week ago

In regards to Dedric Lawson - he’s going to have a solid career in China or Europe.

Newman made a couple of NBA rosters on short D-League contracts.

Doug Aitken 2 months, 1 week ago

The love of money is the root of all evil.

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