LAWRENCE — Dedric Lawson has made his decision.
Lawson, Kansas basketball’s leading scorer and rebounder from the recently completed season, publicly declared for the NBA Draft on Monday morning, sharing his decision via a post on social media. The redshirt junior forward averaged 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds in his lone season with the Jayhawks.
Lawson thanked Bill Self, the rest of the KU coaching staff, the university's academic advisors and "the best fans in the country" for "allowing me to recreate myself and display my talents,” he wrote.
"After prayer and discussion with my family, I will pursue my life's dream by declaring for the NBA Draft. I will begin my preparation for the NBA immediately,” continued Lawson, who transferred into KU from Memphis ahead of the 2017-18 season. “Rock Chalk Jayhawk for life!!”
The Jayhawks leaned on Lawson like few others in the Self era.
Lawson, who shot 49 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from 3-point range, averaged a team-high 32.6 minutes. Despite frequent double teams following the season-ending injury to junior center Udoka Azubuike in early January, Lawson finished with 22 double-doubles, including a 25-point, 10-rebound showing in the team’s 89-75 season-ending defeat to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 23 in Salt Lake City.
After that outcome, Lawson was visibly shaken, shouldering blame for the team’s inability to reach its goals — the Big 12 regular-season championship, the conference’s tournament championship and a Final Four berth. Self, though, refuted those comments, offering nothing but praise for the player the Jayhawks rode for as long and as far as they could.
“He’s had as good a year as we could have ever hoped for,” Self said of Lawson after the season-ending defeat. “I don’t know that we’ve ever ridden a guy (this much) — maybe Thomas Robinson, but he’d be the only guy we would have ridden as hard as Dedric. And you wouldn’t have to if you had your full complement of guys, obviously. ...
“He’s a terrific kid. We’ve got great kids, don’t get me wrong, but he is one of the special kids we’ve had in our program in recent years.”
Self on Monday said those in the program "totally support" Lawson's decision and wish him the best moving forward.
"Dedric came here, sat out last season, and had only one year to participate in competition," Self said in a news release. "Dedric had such a great year. There are not very many players who have played at Kansas, or players that I have coached, that average 19 points and 10-plus rebounds in a season. 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."
Named an Associated Press third-team All-American last Tuesday, Lawson eclipsed the 20-point threshold 18 times this season, notching a pair of 30-point efforts along the way — 30 points on 12-for-15 shooting with 14 rebounds in just 31 minutes of an 80-76 defeat Dec. 22 at Arizona State, and 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting with 14 rebounds in 35 minutes in a 77-68 victory over TCU on Jan. 9 in Lawrence.
Lawson is the latest in the string of postseason departures for the Jayhawks, with more potentially on the way.
Redshirt sophomore guards K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore have entered the transfer portal and intend to exit the program, bringing the total number of departing Jayhawks to four when factoring in senior guard Lagerald Vick, who left the team in the middle of the season. Azubuike, freshman guard Quentin Grimes and sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa each have their own decisions to make and could opt to at least test the professional waters.
With Dedric Lawson’s departure, KU now has three open scholarships on hand, with a pair of four-star recruits — 6-6 forward Christian Braun and 6-foot guard Issac McBride — as the only incoming freshmen to this point.