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Hardwork vital for Lawson brothers

<p>In wins, freshman forward Dedric Lawson is averaging 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 41.5 percent from the field.&nbsp;</p>
In wins, freshman forward Dedric Lawson is averaging 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 41.5 percent from the field. 

In a city now known for its “Grit and Grind” persona, highly-touted freshmen forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson both know outworking their opponents will be key in helping Memphis Tiger basketball return to the NCAA Tournament in 2016.

“No matter what the other person has done, I’m just going to outwork him and be the tougher player,” Dedric said. “And be a tougher competitor than him on both ends of the floor.”

K.J. said his mindset is also to outwork his opponents and show he’s not here just because of his father, Keelon Lawson, who is the Tigers’ assistant coach and largely responsible for the Lawson brothers signing with Memphis in November 2014.

“If I outwork you, you can’t say my dad gave me this or that if the head coach is on my side and the other coaches. That’s how I look at every situation going back from ninth grade,” K.J. said “I knew I had to earn my spot so nobody can say you didn’t earn it because of your performance. There’s no excuses and you see that.”

Dedric and K.J. are just two of 10 new faces on this season’s Memphis squad. As Pastner has said on several occasions, both will be thrown into the fire early and often in 2016. How quickly they adapt to the college game will be crucial if Memphis is to rebound from last season’s disappointing 18-14 campaign. The Tigers open the season against Southern Miss on Saturday.

Dedric, who now joins Shaq Goodwin as one of two former McDonald’s All-Americans on this year’s squad following his dominant showing at Hamilton last season, said the biggest difference so far is just playing with – and against – better players.

“You just can’t have the ball all the time like you did in high school,” Dedric said. “In college, you are on the floor with four other players who are just as good as you. Playing with other players of the same elite caliber as you. It’s just making you find your niche on the team and just find a way to win at the end of the day.”

When asked about his role on this year’s team, Dedric said Pastner wants him to be “relentless.”

“(He wants me to) play every possession, rebound, score, make my team better,” Dedric said. “Just be me. Just be a good basketball player and be a good team player. High motor is his key word.”

While Dedric has gotten the majority of the attention of the two brothers – and rightfully so – Pastner said K.J. is a better player than people think and he will surprise people this season.

“He’s got to be an undersell, and overperform type of guy,” Pastner said. “I really believe that.”

Like his brother, K.J. said Pastner wants him to be relentless and “play like the stud he recruited” coming out of Hamilton. He also said the coaching staff wants him to “grow into a sophomore by the end of the first semester.”

“One thing they say about freshman like Coach (Robert) Kirby says is that freshman always grow up to be sophomores,” K.J. said. “Some quicker than others.”

Dedric, who graduated from Hamilton a year early to reclassify in the class of 2015, said its been great having his older brother to lean on school-wise and socially so far this semester.

As far as the high expectations from Tiger fans that come with the start of every season – and for the Lawson brothers themselves – Dedric said this is what Memphis is all about.

“I look forward to winning for my city and just hope my city can be proud of me and my brother,” Dedric said.

Tiger freshman Dedric Lawson made his debut for the Blue and Gray last Friday in an exhibition against LeMoyne-Owen College. He recorded 10 points and nine rebounds in Memphis’ 107-88 win. 

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