The University of Memphis men’s basketball team received welcome news when freshman Dedric Lawson announced this week he will forego testing the NBA waters and return to school for his sophomore season.
While the Tigers search for its next coach to replace the departed Josh Pastner, who took the same position at Georgia Tech, whoever the next Memphis coach is will have a key building block for next season.
Lawson, who played his high school basketball at Hamilton High School in Memphis, won the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year award in the 2015-16 season. He averaged a team-leading 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds, and formed an all-conference frontcourt duo with senior Shaq Goodwin.
As a result of his successful season, Lawson announced last month he would test the NBA Draft waters. Due to the new rules implemented this year, Lawson could have participated in the NBA Draft Combine and worked out for teams individually and as long as Lawson did not hire an agent could return to the U of M.
Lawson failed to appear on most NBA mock draft boards, and this may well be the reason the 6-foot-9 forward returned to school. While it seems odd on the surface, the U of M will not mind too much that Lawson decided to come back.
Another reason for Lawson’s return, according to him, is the chance to play a full season with his older brother K.J. Lawson at the U of M. K.J. missed all but 10 games last season due to heel spurs, and recently had surgery, which will sideline him for another three months.
This probably means U of M assistant Keelon Lawson will be retained for at least the 2016-17, though that is yet to be officially confirmed.
Nevertheless, the Tigers appear to be in rebuilding mode next season. Especially, given Memphis still has five open scholarship spots to fill. Dedric, at the least, accelerates that process.
Memphis forward Dedric Lawson averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game as he earned AAC Rookie of the Week honors for the second consecutive week.