Kansas added two-fifths of Memphis’ starting lineup to its 2018-19 basketball rotation on Monday, landing a pair of commitments from second-year transfers Dedric Lawson and his brother, K.J.
Dedric, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound sophomore forward, averaged 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds and blocked 68 shots while playing 34.5 minutes a game last season for the Tigers (19-13). The first-team all-American Athletic Conference selection hit 46.1 percent of his shots, including 30 of 111 threes for 27.0 percent, and made 152 of 205 free throws for 74.1 percent.
K.J., a 6-7, 210-pound redshirt freshman who played just 10 games in 2015-16 because of injury, averaged 12.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in 33.7 minutes per contest this past season. He was chosen the conference’s newcomer of the year — an award claimed by Dedric the previous season.
The two Memphis Hamilton High grads, who announced their transfer from Memphis to KU via K.J.’s Twitter account, will practice but not play in games next season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. They will have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2018-19, but Dedric is expected to be a first-round NBA draft selection in the 2019 Draft. K.J. reportedly still could apply for an NCAA waiver for a sixth year of eligibility if he wishes to pursue that, because of injury his freshman season.
“Dedric is the taller of the two and probably the better player. He is extremely skilled and a great shooter from 17 feet and in. He’s a great rebounder and a big-time passer for a big man,” reports Eric Bossi of Rivals.com. “I think there are a lot of similarities to the way (former KU forward) Marcus Morris played. Not an exact comparison, but if you are looking for a recent Kansas player he’s probably the best comparison.”
Dedric, who finished the 2016-17 season with 19 double doubles (he scored 35 points against Iowa and 26 against Oklahoma) was a finalist for the 2017 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award after joining Ben Simmons, Frank Kaminsky, Draymond Green, and David West as collegians with 600-plus points, 300-plus rebounds, and 100-plus assists in a season.
“With Dedric you are talking about a first-round NBA draft pick. He is a guy who, assuming if he’s as good as he has been, he is someone who can compete for the Big 12 player of the year,” Bossi said of the former McDonald’s All-American.
K.J., who was ranked No. 54 in the recruiting Class of 2015 by Rivals.com to Dedric’s No 33 ranking, exploded for 28 points and 16 rebounds in a game against Houston and grabbed 19 boards versus East Carolina this past season. He hit 39.9 percent of his shots, including 22 of 66 from three (33.3 percent).
“He is a junkyard dog,” Bossi said. “He is a small forward but can play as an undersized power forward. He’s another good rebounder and is tough on defense. He will get out in transition and score. He had an injury that held him back for a little bit but now he is back to getting healthy. He is starting to return to the player of old. K.J. is a potential all-league player. These are definitely impact guys.”
The Lawsons come from a basketball family. Chandler Lawson, a 6-8, 200-pound junior-to-be out of Memphis East High, is ranked No. 33 in the class of 2019 by Rivals.com. Johnathan Lawson is expected to be a top 10 recruit in the class of 2021. Their cousin, D.J. Jeffries, a 6-7 small forward out of Olive Branch (Miss.) High, is ranked No. 8 in the class of 2019.
The mom and dad of Chandler, Johnathan, K.J. and Dedric are both former coaches.
Keelon Lawson, former state championship coach at Memphis’ Hamilton High, was hired by former Memphis coach Josh Pastner as an assistant coach in the summer of 2014. New Tigers coach Tubby Smith reassigned Keelon to director of player development last season.
Keelon said in interviews Monday he did not wish to coach at his son’s next stop. Keelon played collegiately at LeMoyne-Owen as did Dedra Lawson, who also coached the women’s team at her alma mater.
“Our mom was a college coach,” Dedric told cbssports.com, “so we were just always in the gym.”
Dedric and K.J. chose their new schools quickly.
They announced Wednesday they were leaving Memphis. On Monday, Keelon told CBS’ Gary Parrish that his sons had narrowed their list of schools to KU, Duke, Iowa State and Mississippi. Shortly after that, Keelon told Parrish that KU was the choice and K.J. tweeted that KU was the choice.
“The reason we are leaving, I don’t think there’s anything Dedric can do, as far as the University of Memphis, as far as achieving his personal goals,” Keelon Lawson said Monday on 92.9 ESPN Radio Memphis before it was announced that KU was the choice. “Now, imagine, you go to a Power Five conference somewhere, where they won’t double-team you, you have guys on the team that are just as better as you, if you go there and do half the things you did at Memphis, it would be great.
“It’s going to be prestige, where you can get a chance to win a national championship,” he added of their eventual transfer spot, which turned out to be KU.
KU currently has filled its scholarship allotment of 13 for the coming 2017-18 season. However, one scholarship will become available when Josh Jackson declares for the 2017 NBA Draft.
Junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk still is pondering whether to return to KU for his senior year or head to the NBA Draft. He could report his decision at Tuesday night’s KU basketball banquet.
KU coach Bill Self said Sunday he would like to sign another guard. The Jayhawks are recruiting Trevon Duval, a 6-2 senior from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla, who is ranked No. 3 nationally and Thomas Allen, 6-2 senior from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., who is ranked No. 149. Also, KU is recruiting Shakur Juiston, a 6-7 sophomore forward from Hutchinson Community College.
The Star’s Jesse Newell contributed to this report.