MEMPHIS, TN -- Less than a week ago, brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson announced that they will request a release as they planned to transfer from the University of Memphis to another school. In a stunning blow to the immediate future of the Memphis men's basketball program, that decision was motivated by factors beyond Memphis' 19-13 record that included a 9-9 mark in American Athletic Conference play.
In an interview on 92.9, their father, Keelon Lawson, stated that the Jayhawks, Ole Miss, Iowa State and Duke were among the favorites to possibly land his sons.
Today, both former Memphis basketball stars made the decision and chose to transfer to Kansas. K.J. made the announcement on his Twitter page as their father confirmed the news to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
The departure of the Lawson brothers has raised questions and concerns about Tubby Smith's ability to keep local talent at Memphis. Four of six players have found new homes since the first season under Coach Smith has come to an end. Sophomore guard Craig Randall has committed to Duquesne, while Markel Crawford transferred to Ole Miss. Freshman guard Keon Clergeot has yet to decide between Massachusetts and Florida Gulf Coast.
Memphis now have six open scholarships, but losing the Lawsons leaves a gaping hole in the Tiger's lineup. Both brothers were considered top-50 recruits coming out of high school. They both signed with Memphis two years ago when former Tigers coach Josh Pastner agreed to hire their father as an assistant coach.
Last season, Smith replaced Pastner, who left last spring for Georgia Tech, demoting Keelon Lawson to director of player development after Dedric went through the NBA draft process without hiring an agent and returning to school for his sophomore season.
Playing only 10 games as a freshman due to an Achilles heel injury, K.J. averaged 12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as a redshirt earning AAC rookie of the year honors. Dedric registered a team-high of 19.2 points, 9.9 boards and 2.1 blocks a game during his second season with the Tigers as one of two players in the nation - the other being Eastern Washington's Jacob Wiley - with these stats during the 2016-17 campaign.
There are also two younger Lawsons to consider. Chandler Lawson, two-time defending state champion and sophomore at East High School, is rated as a top 20 prospect in the nation for the 2019 recruiting class by ESPN. The youngest brother, Jonathan, will be a freshman in high school next year and is also viewed as one of the top prospects in the nation. Their cousin, D.J. Jeffries, is a top-10 national recruit in the class of 2019.
As for the future of the Lawson brothers, K.J. and Dedric will now both head to a Kansas team that will require leadership and improvements as they both will need to step up their game.
Dedric will have two years remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 season as he has decided not to pursue a professional career. Meanwhile, K.J. will have three years if he can get an NCAA waiver for a sixth year of eligibility. Having already redshirted, he will lose an entire year of eligibility while sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer rules.