Dedric Lawson rolled out of bed at 4 am April 5 in his apartment in Istanbul, Turkey, eager to view a livestream of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball championship game between his alma mater, Kansas, and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
“I was following the whole NCAA run. The games came on different times (because of 8-hour difference) but I was watching,” said Lawson, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound third-year pro with Besiktas SJ of Turkey’s Super League who in his one season as a Jayhawk (2018-19) led the Big 12 Conference in scoring and rebounding.
The 24-year-old Lawson — he played in the NBA G League in 2019-20, in South Korea in 2020-21 and Turkey in 21-22 — says he wasn’t surprised the Jayhawks capped a 6-0 tournament run with a 72-69 victory over UNC in Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
“Honesty I call it fate. It was fate. It was well overdue after all those years of being right there,” Lawson said. He was speaking to The Star on Saturday at the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic bowling tournament at Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence. Dedric and his brother, former KU guard KJ Lawson, were two of approximately 40 former Jayhawks players in town since Thursday helping raise money for local families battling cancer.
“Even the team I was on in 2018 … we were right there. This year it clicked for coach (Bill Self) and the guys. Everybody bought in. We definitely were overdue,” Lawson indicated.
Dedric Lawson started on the 2018-19 KU team that went 26-10 overall. That squad placed third in the Big 12 and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Auburn. During his redshirt season in 2017-18 following he and K.J’s transfer from Memphis, KU (31-8) had won the Big 12 regular season and postseason tournament titles and reached the Final Four, losing to Villanova in the national semifinals.
After leaving KU with one year of collegiate eligibility remaining, Lawson, who averaged 19.1 points and 10.3 boards as a Jayhawk, was not selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. The San Antonio Spurs signed him to play for the G League Austin Spurs. Lawson averaged 14.0 points and 8.0 rebounds a game during the 2019-20 season, scoring as many as 33 points (with 10 rebounds) in one game.
“The Spurs liked him a lot,” KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said Saturday at the Roundball Classic bowling event. “Dedric can really score and rebound. He’s a very good player. I talked to somebody today who said he might be in New Zealand this season where you can make pretty good money. His future is bright,” Townsend added.
Dedric is not opposed to returning to Turkey where he averaged 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game during the 2021-22 campaign.
“I had a pretty good year,” Lawson said. “I will probably go back overseas. I’m enjoying the process. I’m learning so much from different players and coaches. You go overseas and get to experience different cultures, see different places. I feel hurt for sure.”
Of perhaps playing in the NBA someday, he said: “It’s all opportunity. You hope for the right opportunity. I’m just going to continue to play my game the way I always have played.”
Brother KJ Lawson, meanwhile, who left KU after one season to finish his college career at Tulane, played for a team in England in 2020-21. He coached at a high school in Memphis last school year.
“He and KJ are great kids. They come from a basketball family in Memphis,” Townsend said. “Coming back this weekend to support such a good cause really shows their character,” he added.
In returning for KU basketball and football radio play by play announcer Brian Hanni’s Roundball Classic for the first time, Dedric said he wanted to “get back to Lawrence, show my face and feel the atmosphere of being a Jayhawk. That’s really what it’s all about. A lot of teammates I played with here are back this weekend and I wanted to interact with them. Brian called me last year but I was in summer league. This year I didn’t have anything going on. It was a good opportunity for me and KJ to come back.
“It’s been fun seeing so many people. The fans here don’t care how long you were here, as long as when you were here you gave your all. If you do that they’ll always support you,” Lawson added.
KU alumni team might enter 2022 TBT
There’s a chance, Lawson said, he could be playing for a KU alumni team in the upcoming The Basketball Tournament (TBT).
Former KU guard Tyshawn Taylor told The Star on Friday at the Roundball Classic dinner at the Burge Union that he has until midweek to enter a team in the 64-team, single elimination event in which the winning team members split $1 million prize money.
A KU team competed in the 2019 TBT, losing its only game in Wichita. Former KU forward Perry Ellis suffered a serious knee injury in that game.
If KU does enter a team this summer it would also be assigned to the Wichita Regional (Juy 22-28, Koch Arena).
Taylor said he’s made initial contact with former KU players Dedric Lawson, Devon Dotson, Mario Little, Frank Mason, Thomas Robinson, Cliff Alexander, Lagerald Vick, Marcus Garrett and others inquiring about possible interest in playing for a KU team in the TBT.
“It’s really good competition,” Taylor said, “so you have to get the right guys — maybe some the younger guys who are playing at a high level.”
Morningstar rolls 200 game
KU men’s basketball video coordinator Brady Morningstar defeated former KU guard Sherron Collins and former KU forward Travis Releford in the finals of the individual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic bowling competition Saturday at Royal Crest Lanes.
Morningstar bowled a 224 and Collins 180 prior to the finals, which was a three-frame competition. Morningstar connected on a strike, spare and knocked down nine pins in his third frame to defeat Collins who took second, and Releford, who placed third.
“Downtown” Terry Brown back in town
Former KU guard “Downtown” Terry Brown, who played for the Jayhawks during the 1989-90 and ’90-91 seasons, returned to Lawrence for Roundball Classic weekend.
Brown holds the record for most three-pointers made in a game by a KU player (11). Lagerald Vick, Billy Thomas and Mario Chalmers each hit eight in a game and are tied for second in threes made in a KU game.
“That was against Kentucky. That was the game coach Pitino (Rick, Kentucky) was upset because they kept pressing and we kept scoring,” Brown recalled at Friday’s Roundball Classic dinner.
Actually, Brown was 7-of-10 from three and scored 31 points in KU’s 150-95 win over Pitino’s Kentucky Wildcats on Dec. 9, 1989, at Allen Fieldhouse.
His 11 threes in 17 attempts came in a 105-94 win over North Carolina State on Jan. 5, 1991 in Allen. He had 42 points in that game.
Brown, a native of Clyde, New York, transferred to KU from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M junior college. Brown was inducted into NEO’s Hall of Fame in 2018. He played two seasons at KU, enough time in Lawrence to be ranked eighth on the all-time three-point field goal list (200).
He hit 111 threes in 1990-91, second on the single-season all-time KU list behind Svi Mykhailiuk’s 115 threes made in 2017-18.
Brown during a successful business career has run his own freelance graphic arts business and worked for a sports jewelry company. An accomplished painter, he told the Star on Friday that he’s designed uniforms for youth basketball teams as well.