Memphis teammates and brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson announced Wednesday that they are transferring from their hometown school. It’s a devastating blow to a program that recently went to eight NCAA Tournaments in a nine-year span under John Calipari and Josh Pastner but is now nearly guaranteed to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive time next season.
“We are born and raised in Memphis and love the city with all our hearts,” read a statement signed by the brothers. “However, we must do what is best for our future, our dreams and our family. So we plan to transfer.”
The Lawsons will now become two of the most sought-after transfers on the market -- especially Dedric, a sophomore forward who averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season. K.J., a redshirt freshman, averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Both are former top-50 national recruits.
Dedric was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.
A source told CBS Sports that the players’ father, Keelon Lawson, will now leave the Memphis staff. He worked one year under Pastner and one year under Tubby Smith, who replaced Pastner last April after Memphis paid Pastner $1.25 million to please take the Georgia Tech job. Pastner accepted the offer. Then Memphis agreed to a five-year, $15.45 million contract with Smith.
There are four years remaining on that contract.
Further damaging for the Memphis program is that there are two more Lawson brothers -- Chandler and Johnathan. One is a top-25 national recruit in the Class of 2019, the other a top-10 national recruit in the Class of 2021. Memphis had been recruiting both. Now neither projects as a future Tiger. Also worth noting: Markel Crawford is too leaning toward transferring, a source told CBS Sports. The 6-foot-5 junior averaged 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds this season. He could theoretically graduate and transfer without penalty, meaning he would be eligible at another Division I program next season.