Keelon Lawson, father of former University of Memphis forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, says it was pretty much a slam-dunk decision for his sons to choose Kansas as their transfer destination.
“As soon as Coach called me on Friday. As soon as K.T. (KU assistant Kurtis Townsend) reached out and said they were interested,” Keelon Lawson said Monday night in a phone interview, referring to the moment he knew the former Tigers likely were headed to KU.
“They (Dedric and K.J.) had already been talking to Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick. They know those guys, even Tarik (Black, former KU player from Memphis). Carlton Bragg (former KU forward) is their friend. They talk to those guys. They already knew all about Kansas,” Lawson added.
His sons, who last Wednesday announced plans to leave Memphis after two seasons, on Monday revealed plans to attend KU on Twitter.
That’s one day after KU coach Bill Self made a trip to Memphis to see the brothers.
“Coach Self is a good guy. I met him over the years on the circuit recruiting for Memphis (as assistant coach for former Memphis coach Josh Pastner),” Keelon Lawson said. “He (Self) and his assistants were always nice to me, gave me advice, always asked, ‘How are the boys doing?’ They always welcomed me in the coaching fraternity.
“I was star-struck growing up seeing him coach at Illinois and Tulsa. I wish he’d come recruit me,” Keelon, a former player at both UAB and LeMoyne-Owen, added with a laugh.
“He’s just real. Like he told the boys, ‘I will not kiss your (butt). You will play and I’ll get on you. Then after practice my wife will tell you we’ll have dinner at 6.’ The boys understand it’s not personal,” Keelon Lawson added, noting they want to be coached.
Keelon — who coached both the boys and girls teams at Memphis’ Hamilton High and through the years heard glowing reports from some women’s players from Memphis who attended KU — as a coach always stressed rebounding with his own youngsters.
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). 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 game this past season, one in which he was chosen the conference’s newcomer of the year.
“When I played ball, my philosophy was, ‘If a guy is going to shoot the ball, somebody’s got to be able to get the rebound,” Keelon Lawson said. “I’ve not yet seen someone shoot 100 percent from the field. If ever you want to be on the floor and play, you’ve got to rebound.
“Rebounding is a gift, a knack. If you can rebound, the coach will find you a spot on the floor.”
Asked to compare his sons to current or past players, Keelon said: “I think Dedric is more of a poor man’s Tim Duncan, that kind of player. K.J. is more a blue-collar player, like a Tony Allen: hard-nosed, old-school player. He doesn’t care how he gets the job done, he just wants to get it done. He’ll get it done by any means necessary. He’ll give it his all.”
Keelon said the brothers will arrive at KU in early June for the start of summer school. They will be able to practice next season but not be eligible to play in games until the 2018-19 campaign.
“The kids are happy because they are happy to be recruited and still wanted,” Keelon Lawson said. “There’s been so much going on the past couple of years. That can kill your spirit, but the boys know basketball is a business. They understand there’s ups and downs.
“Now just to know as soon as you become available, a school like Kansas is the first to reach out and come see you and want both of you … that says a lot. It’s like a family there. As soon as the guys (current Jayhawks) knew they were coming they reached out and called them and welcomed them. They are ready to get to Kansas.”