An introduction to future Jayhawks Dedric and K.J. Lawson
Once a national championship opponent of the Kansas Jayhawks, Memphis hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in three years. So you get a pass if you weren’t particularly familiar with a couple of second-year Tigers by the names of Dedric and K.J. Lawson before news of their plans to transfer to KU came out Monday.
Who are the Lawsons, exactly? Well, they’re brothers, as you likely guessed. Though they’re both in the same class from a student-athlete perspective, K.J. is actually a year older than Dedric, who reclassified to join Memphis at the same time as his brother.
Between them they combined to average more than 31 points per game this past season for Memphis (19-13) and head coach Tubby Smith.
Dedric, a 6-foot-9 guard/forward, proved to be more prolific offensively for the brothers’ hometown program, while nearly averaging a double-double — 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds — as a sophomore. He only shot 27% from 3-point range (30-for-111) but converted much more effectively on 2-point shots (52%) before he and his brother decided to move on. Dedric made himself a presence on defense, too, averaging 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals a game.
K.J., a 6-foot-7 guard/forward improved his production with a leap in minutes — and health — between his freshman and sophomore years. K.J. only played 10 games as a freshman, due to a foot injury, and averaged 8.8 points and 3.5 boards in 19.7 minutes.
Able to play 32 games the following year, his sophomore numbers improved to 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 33.7 minutes. This past season, K.J. was more accurate from 3-point range than his brother, connecting on 22 of 67 attempts (32.8%). K.J. shot 39.9% from the floor overall in 2016-17, while Dedric converted 46.1% of his field goals.
Dedric got to the free-throw line a lot more, hitting on 152 of 205 attempts (74.1%) as a sophomore. K.J. made 82 of 118 free throws (69.5%) this past year.
Considered the more talented of the two, Dedric tested the NBA Draft waters in 2016 after becoming the American Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year and returned to school after attending the draft combine and hearing from NBA decision-makers about his stock.
Though his sophomore production wasn’t enough to make him an NBA player after two college seasons, Dedric and K.J. likely had their professional futures in mind when deciding to transfer to a high-profile program and play for Bill Self at Kansas.
Here’s a look at one of Dedric’s more effective games of his sophomore season — when he went for 26 points and 6 rebounds against Tulsa — which includes various examples of why he was named First Team All-AAC.
K.J. made it back-to-back AAC Rookie of the Year awards for the Lawson household as a sophomore. His 8.1 boards ranked him third in the conference, behind Dedric’s league-leading 9.9. Like his brother, who averaged 2.9 offensive rebounds a game, K.J. attacked the glass on that end of the floor, gathering 2.3 a game.
Though he wasn’t featured in the Tigers’ offense as much as his brother, he showed a smooth handle and shooting touch in spots, and put together a 19-rebound outing in January versus East Carolina.
“I think my strongest skill set is just my aggressiveness and my rebounding skills,” K.J. said in an interview after picking up his rookie hardware. “Just playing and just enforcing my will on people.”
The Lawson brothers, per NCAA rules, won’t make their KU debuts until the 2018-19 season, after sitting out this coming season as transfers.