Former Memphis Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks star Dedric Lawson had the most points and rebounds per game in the Big 12 Conference last season.
After leading the conference in offensive win shares and Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the 21-year-old forward projects as a solid win-now player in the upcoming draft class. Lawson was one of the most prolific and productive scorers in the country when finishing half court sets. His game compares well to former Kansas forwards Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris.
Lawson spoke to HoopsHype about his journey to get where he is today and how he would fit in the modern professional space.
I’d love to hear about what you’ve been doing and focusing on to prepare for the draft on a day-to-day basis.
Dedric Lawson: Right after season, I took a week or two off and I flew down to Los Angeles. We’ve just been training there nonstop. We hit the weight room from like 8 am to 10 am and then take a little hour break and go on the court from like 11 am to 12:15 pm or 12:30 pm depending on how the day is going. I was just trying to improve on the body and getting in the best shape. And just prepare for the NBA three-point line and continue to grow the skills I already have like putting the ball on the floor, decision-making, making shots. This whole process has been tremendous fun for me because I love to play the game of basketball. It’s been paying off in the workouts, going against very competitive guys. Going out there and just being dominating in the workouts, making shots, making plays for others and just being a great basketball player.
How do you think you’ve improved the most during the offseason?
DL: Getting strong. Being in shape for these workouts, you know. There’s a lot of back-to-backs, there’s a lot of travel and things like that. Growing the mentality as being a professional and taking care of your body. Eating the right things. When you go out there, you’re competing for a job and can’t afford to take any plays off – just taking nothing for granted. It’s a very different game from college to the pros. I think my mentality has definitely grown, like going to the combine and seeing how hungry guys are out there makes you pick up your work ethic when you go back home. I gained some perspective on what I was trying to do. Just doing that has helped me see like what I need to do, this is going good for me, things like that just. At the end of the day, you need to be able to critique yourself to be good at this game and just be truthful with yourself.
Talking about the combine a little bit, I wanted to hear your impressions of it. You had eight rebounds in the first game and two three-pointers in both games. What do you think your biggest strengths were?
DL: It was definitely the scrimmages. I’m not the guy with the 40-inch vertical or the guy that’s lightning quick. But just going out there, showing that I know how to play well. I think I did a pretty good job of just going out there and setting screens, getting guys open, getting in the paint, kicking the ball, just being a great unselfish basketball player. And I went out there and had an impact on the game in a positive way the best way I can.
What do you think has kind of been your biggest asset as a basketball player?
DL: My IQ of the game is my biggest asset. I love to think about the game before I play it. So just knowing where I’m going to a matchup – if a guy likes to go left, make sure he doesn’t go left as much. If a guy is stupid athletic, that he doesn’t pump fake. Physically, you do all you can to prepare for the game, you put in the long hours, going the extra mile to be playing with those guy with like supreme athleticism to just make yourself just as dominant as them.
How did you develop your love for basketball, how did you become such a good student of the game?
DL: I had my parents to thank for sure. My mom and dad both coached basketball, so being around them, always talking to them. Just watching the game and seeing the things that I liked and being a student of it. I watched a lot of Tim Duncan. Those guys who played the game and were always so fundamentally sound. I used to play pickup a lot with older guys, so I was always the guy that took the ball out of bounds and I always wanted to shoot but my passing ability just came from playing with guys that were older. My mom and dad were always just picking our brains at home: ‘what’d you do here, what’d you do there’. As life goes on you just grow up and the IQ stays with you and you put your own twist to it, your own flavor to it and that’s what makes you your own player, your own unique type of player. I put a lot of work in during the offseason. A lot of time I like watching game film and things like that. I spend a lot of time learning the game of basketball, which helps me out. Like to get the proper hand on different things. I watched a lot of LaMarcus Aldridge this past year. A lot of Marcus Morris, just different positions and how different guys play at their positions and just to add things to my game to make my game unique compared to what theirs are.
You said your parents coached basketball. I’m curious… Did they also play?
DL: My dad played at UNAB, my mom played at a DII school in Memphis. She was one of the best players to ever go to that DII school, she had a jersey retirement a couple of years back. They’re definitely well-known people around the city of Memphis for basketball, and for their IQ and for heir game.
You obviously had a really fantastic season last year at Kansas. I wanted to hear about some of the accomplishment you had, leading your conference in scoring, rebounding, and so many other statistics. What were you most proud of that you were able to achieve?
DL: Just going out there and competing as a Big 12 player. You know one of my main reasons for going to the Big 12 was to show that I am capable of doing the kind of things I was doing at Memphis. Head coach Bill Self gave me the freedom to go out there and play. From the first day I came there my redshirt year, he saw how intense I was throughout the practice and saw how much I could grow as a player. I was losing weight and things like that. He came to me in the middle of the year, and said ‘Man, you going to be Big 12 Player of the Year.’ I really didn’t understand what that meant at the time. But as the season went on he just kept telling me to keep playing, keep my head up. So I got to give the coach that he gave me a lot of courage and a lot of confidence to go out there and play every single night. He helped me on and off the court.
He has coached so many NBA players in his career at so many different levels. I’d love to hear about some of the ways he helped you prepare yourself for your NBA journey.
DL: Coach Self speaks about being competitive. You know, coming from Memphis, I thought I knew what competing was. But I didn’t until I had practice with like twelve other pros. Everybody on this team, they have a chance to make a shot at making some money in the NBA. And then you really learn the real meaning of competition. I think he really helped me with my IQ as well as far as thinking the game. Most guys have their athletic ability to thank. But he helped me with that and he helped me a lot with workouts, like with the one on one situations when it’s just you and your man just being competitive and not wanting to lose, I think that he did a great job of helping me with that.
What are some of the roles you believe you can play on the offensive and defensive side of the ball?
DL: I just want to help my teammates out. That’s something that I take pride in on offense and defense and being able to help my teammate find their shots. Like in a game if I have a big guy on me, I’ll drive, try to make his man come over and help. I’ll try to get an easy kick outside. I think that helping other teammates get going, I can get going eventually. Toward the end of the year, other teams started doubling a lot, so I need my teammates to be productive for me. So I try to get those guys going earlier then get looks myself. Coach ran most of the plays for me so I want them to get shots up and things like that. I trusted that if I go help another teammate, he has my back. The best thing about basketball is it’s a team sport and you need everyone to be competitive out there. And just going forward, that’s something I definitely cherish, playing with great players. I had a very great team. We had a lot of young guys and they are going to be great next year. They helped me out a lot as much as I helped them out this past year.
You were one of the more efficient players in college basketball, especially at your position. What do you credit for such high marks in the regard?
DL: Good decision-making. Knowing and just trusting the guy. Like I said, it comes with trusting your teammates, if I’m confident when I drive right the man in the corner is going to knock down the shot. Not trying to do things by yourself. My freshman year, I would try to do too many things myself. But you definitely need guys around you to help you develop and to help you be better and push you at practice. Guys like Silvio De Sousa and Udoka Azubuike helped me with my game tremendously. Those are guys who require you play the smart game, little pump fakes and things like that, jabs, ball fakes.
What are the positions you feel most comfortable playing on both offense and defense? A lot of times you are who you guard, you have a wingspan over seven feet. What positions do you really feel will help you most at the next level?
DL: Due to my shot-making ability and my playmaking abilities, I think I’ll be very productive at the 4. Even if they wanted to go really small, I can definitely play the 5 as well. Just being out there and doing whatever the team needs me to do to be productive that’s just something I’m looking forward to in my rookie year.
I think something that people might not realize about you is that you played with your older brother KJ for a while. Tell me a little bit about the experience playing with him and what some of the highlights of that experience were like for you.
DL: Man, I think KJ is probably the most competitive person I’ve ever been around. He’s not one to lose, just playing one on one games that we didn’t finish just because we got to arguing or fighting. It really helped out with my competitiveness. KJ helped me out my whole career, especially my college career. You know, some games don’t go as well as others. KJ encouraged me to stay with it even when he wasn’t even playing this past year. He just told me to stay with it and ‘You gotta be the leader’ and things like that. So KJ has left a big impact on my life and just how far I’ve gotten because of how he’s stuck with me throughout everything.
I’m curious how you think you’d be able to make an impact. What ways do you think you’d be able to help in the short term and long term in the NBA?
DL: For the short term, just coming in, learn from the guys. Whatever team I go to, the veterans can help me. I want to watch and compete at practice and just work for a four spot, making shots, playing good defense. Being a guy that the coach can definitely trust. Just hopefully becoming a starter and a great player in the league. I want to find my niche and what I do well at the next level.