An introduction to future Jayhawks Dedric and K.J. Lawson


Memphis' Dedric Lawson looks to shoot as Connecticut's Kentan Facey, right, defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Memphis' Dedric Lawson looks to shoot as Connecticut's Kentan Facey, right, defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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.

South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) fouls Memphis forward K.J. Lawson, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) fouls Memphis forward K.J. Lawson, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

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.


Scott Callahan 1 year, 1 month ago

So how much trouble did they get into in Memphis? I have a feeling this may not work out well.

Greg Ledom 1 year, 1 month ago

So your first thought is how much trouble have they been in? Interesting. Well, I'm sure Self, in Self fashion, didn't vet any of that out before offering to bring them on board.......because he likes it when his players get in trouble, and lord knows we could use a couple more. Come on Scott, really?!

Ryan Mullen 1 year, 1 month ago

So this story is first page on ESPN. And is not getting a top spot on an all KU sports page? Hahahahaha

Jim Erickson 1 year, 1 month ago

Assuming Svi comes back, this means we have one more scholarship for this year. I hope that translates to a OAD-type big man or a graduate transfer big man. Now that Bragg is gone, there are backup post minutes in play and I think the team is one big man away from having a very complete team.

Steve Corder 1 year, 1 month ago

As much as I appreciate statistics I really would like to see analysis/comments from those who have watched these guys at Memphis (not so subtle hint to place calls to writers in Memphis and around the league). This article says very little about who these young men are.

Mallory Briggans 1 year, 1 month ago

To think the Lawson brothers had to have had some kind of problems is pretty shallow. 6 players have transferred out recently so there is more going on . Some complain about players not coming to Kansas ......but when a couple players do choose Kansas some question why Lets welcome them to the program .....and look at them as a positive addition

Dale Rogers 1 year, 1 month ago

If you read the articles here and in other media outlets it seems clear the brothers are looking to improve their stock for the future (i.e. NBA). That means Hudy, Self, and the other coaches plus the opportunity to practice every day against much better competition, not to mention national visibility. Some articles also point out they have been in contact with friends LaGerald Vick, Malik Newman, Carlton Bragg as well as Tarik Black, also from Memphis. In addition, there was a coaching change at Memphis after they were onboard for a year.

It seems to me this change makes a lot of sense and is a win-win situation both for the brothers and for Kansas. I welcome these guys to KU. Rock Chalk.

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 1 month ago

Happy to see a couple skilled players added to the team. Those stats (especially the rebounding) are impressive.

After watching the videos, it is clear neither one of them are the "quick twitch" player Self said he was after. They both appear to play below the basket, have set shots, and play what is often described as "old man ball" which is not a bad thing, it's just not "quick twitch" like Self said he was after. Shakur Juiston is a fast twitch guy (think Jamari Traylor, Kevin Young, etc.). Will be interesting to see who fills that last scholarship spot. A transfer center would be amazing, a transfer power forward would be good as well.

Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 1 month ago

I watched some of the NBA combine scrimmages when Dedric played. He was not particularly impressive, but actually neither was Perry Ellis. However, the metrics that a prospect is measured with were the most damaging to his chances of going pro. So, he spent a season with Grandpa Tubby and decided that maybe another coach/team would help his skills, etc on a path to the NBA? Maybe Tubby had more issues with the whole Lawson family dynasty ideology and they realized they were not going to be welcomed and groomed for professional paths. But, do they think KU will allow them to sit out a year and then put their playing time ahead of more highly recruited players? In Bill Self's world, either a player comes in as a "phenom" or he is a project, nothing in between. Even former McDonald's All-Stars have to be developed and work within a system. Tubby Smith is a seasoned coach and obviously could see the upside to these guys. If they wanted to leave together, there must be an issue unrelated to their value and skills. Playing time is usually the factor in guys leaving programs. But, will they get what they want in 2018-19? Drama seems to be seeping into Lawrence more and more.

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 1 month ago

Wow, that's a lot of assumptions to make about a situation you have no information on. Some of your assumptions can easily be proven false. Playing time is often an issue? Not with these guys, they both played over 30 minutes a game. Questioning whether they will play over higher rated recruits? One was ranked in the 30's and was a McDonalds All-American and the other in the 50's in 2015, they weren't exactly scrubs. Bill typically only signs 1 or 2 players ranked higher than that and those players won't have a year of practice in the system so unless they are for sure one and done guys (top 5 recruit), there is no reason to think they will get an automatic priority over proven players with years of experience in college and the system. Wanting to leave together is no mystery, they are brothers and want to play together (like the Morris twins) and one even reclassified so be in the same class as his brother to maximize their time together. So it's no mystery why they would make the decision to transfer a "family" decision. That's not a negative thing either.

The most logical reason to leave are 1) they weren't recruited to play for Tubby so they gave it a year and decided it wasn't what they signed up for (whether it was the system they didn't like, or his coaching style, or his personality, or what is unknown and frankly doesn't matter), 2) they are hoping to play for a "winner" and a blue blood who is going to get a ton of national exposure, make the tournament (which they didn't do at Memphis), and allow them to compete against some amazing competition in practice, or 3) their father was fired as an assistant when Tubby arrived which started their relationship with Tubby in a negative manner so they decided to move on. None of these scenarios are negatives, regardless of how bad you apparently want it to be.

To add to this, their former coach said they are "good character people".

Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 1 month ago

Living in Memphis, there is a lot more that we learn about than what makes the national news. Being familiar with these local guys during their high school days and the progression of their recruitment, and ultimately landing in a scenario at the local university, is seen through different eyes. There are connections and back-stories that tend to give more clarity to attitudes than defending stats.

Believe me, I wish they would prove me wrong and we end up winning the National Championship with them on the team.

Eliott Reeder 1 year, 1 month ago

And they are not the only Memphis players jumping ship.

Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 1 month ago

Only two that Pastner brought in are remaining on the team. Tubby will have to really fight to get a level of talent to compete in the AAC, much less in post-season play. The AAC is not the Big 12. The non-conference schedule has not been challenging for a few years. Interesting that Pastner had the success at Georgia Tech this year and couldn't get some momentum at Memphis with what was supposed to be a top 25 recruiting class in 2014 and 2015,

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