Kansas Jayhawks junior Dedric Lawson figures if all goes well the next several weeks, he’ll hear his name called in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, set for June 20 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“They said I could sneak in the first (round) if I go to the Combine and test well and do things I need to do,” Lawson, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward from Memphis told The Star on Monday in a phone interview several hours after announcing on Twitter he’d skip his senior season and enter his name in the draft pool.
“They” ostensibly refers to NBA scouts and front office officials who are allowed to inform KU coach Bill Self and the players and players’ parents their opinions on specific prospects.
“(I have to) show those guys (in NBA) I can knock down the NBA three, show I’m versatile,” Lawson said. “I have to keep getting stronger. Even though I feel it’s all about the first round, being picked in the second round sometimes puts guys in better situations. Whatever is the best fit for me, going forward to the next level … the first round is cool. If I go second (round), hopefully it’s better, with the right fit.”
Lawson started his college career at Memphis, averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds as a freshman in 2015-16 and 19.2 points and 9.9 boards as a sophomore in 2016-17. He averaged a double-double — 19.4 points, 10.3 rebounds — in his one season at KU. He practiced but did not play in games at KU in 2017-18, in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.
He became the first Jayhawk to average a double-double since Thomas Robinson went for 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds in 2011-12. The only other players to average a double-double in a single season in the 16-year Bill Self era were Cole Aldrich (2008-09) and Wayne Simien (2004-05).
“When I finally averaged a double-double this year, I felt like I gave all I could give at the college level,” Lawson said. “I felt it was time to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.”
KU coach Bill Self agreed with Lawson, first meeting with him two days after KU’s season-ending loss to Auburn in a second-round NCAA Tournament game in Salt Lake City. That’s when Lawson indicated he’d likely be turning pro.
“Coach supports my decision 100 percent,” Lawson said. “We talked about it on that Monday (March 25), then throughout the process he would call me, check on me. Having him in my corner, having a coach encourage you to pursue your dream is a blessing. Not all coaches would do that. You would not get that at a lot of places.”
Self said on Monday: “We totally support his decision and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. ... 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.”
Lawson’s brother, K.J., who transferred with Dedric from Memphis to KU and has also been in Lawrence the past two seasons, announced Friday that he would be transferring to a yet-to-be-determined school.
“The decision he made, he wants to take a different path. Whatever he does or school he chooses I will support him,” Dedric Lawson said.
Dedric will be best man in K.J.’s wedding in mid-July. By then, Dedric likely will have just completed his first stint in the NBA’s summer league.
“I am definitely excited for the process. I look forward to the challenges ahead,” Lawson told The Star. “It’s a matter of being ready physically and mentally as well (for upcoming NBA Combine set for May 14-19 in Chicago and individual workouts with teams).”
Lawson noted that he doesn’t follow the NBA closely but likes “the Mavericks, the Nuggets. Toronto plays well, too, the (Memphis) Grizzlies, the (New Orleans) Pelicans. There are some teams out there I think I can help.”
Lawson said he’d like to return to Lawrence as much as possible in the future.
“I’ll miss the fans. It’s a tremendous place to play,” Lawson said. “I feel we have the best fans at the college level. It’s the best environment in college basketball. It’s a small town. Everybody knows you. The fans travel and support us on the road. The support of the fans really helped our young guys. They gave us a boost home and away. I’ll miss this place a lot.”