What K.J. Lawson hopes to bring to KU basketball in 2018-19

Kansas guard K.J. Lawson poses for a photo at Washburn coach Brett Ballard's basketball camp on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. | Jesse Newell |

By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

Though K.J. Lawson was ineligible to play in regular-season games for Kansas last season, he still considers the past few months to be time well spent.

"You sit out ... people don't fall in love with the game any more than that," Lawson said earlier this week at Washburn coach Brett Ballard's camp in Topeka. "Practicing and just watching people compete, you just fall back in love with it."

Lawson, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound transfer from Memphis, admits that he enjoyed going through KU's workouts a year ago, saying he "loved going against those guys that got their name called" in the NBA Draft.

With the new season approaching, though, he knows it won't be long before he's able to show what he can do.

"I'm very confident in my game," Lawson said.

And that comes across clearly when he's asked to describe his skillset.

Lawson, who was ranked Rivals' 54th-best player out of high school, believes his greatest asset is versatility. He's a strong rebounder, can be a secondary ballhandler and also should have the ability to guard the 1-4 positions defensively.

"I feel like I'm a jack of all trades," Lawson said. "I can't really just pinpoint one (part of my) game, because I love my game. That's me. Who wouldn't have confidence? But we all have got aspects to get better at."

KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend also thinks there are other reasons to be optimistic about Lawson based on his practices last season. Though Lawson is not KU's quickest player or best shooter, he's shown a level of toughness that has impressed KU's coaches.

"I think he works hard so (teammates) respect him," Townsend said. " ... He’ll be a valuable player for us this year."

The exact rotation fit, at this point, remains unclear.

Earlier in his career — and during last summer's exhibition trip to Italy — Lawson played in the frontcourt. He makes it clear, though, that he considers himself a "big guard definitely."

"I was playing out of position at Memphis. I'm not a big at all," Lawson said. "I was ranked in the small forward position in the top 100 (out of high school)."

And honestly, that probably works better for him considering the make-up of this KU roster. The Jayhawks are loaded with depth up front, meaning Lawson's best path to playing time is likely to be on the wing anyway.

He should still have plenty of competition for guard minutes. Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson come to KU as McDonald's All-Americans, while Cal transfer Charlie Moore and sophomore Marcus Garrett are likely to earn significant playing time as well.

One attribute that could help Lawson would be improved three-point accuracy. He made 22 of 67 outside shots his final year at Memphis (33 percent), though he believes that number could improve next season.

"It wasn't that I couldn't shoot the threes; I've just got to shoot it consistent," Lawson said. "It was not a high percentage, but it'll definitely be high. I'll be a viable shooter who'll take good shots."

Lawson says his summer shooting routine typically involves working with his brother, Dedric, who also will be eligible for KU this season. The two rebound for each other while putting up attempts from a variety of locations.

"I just feel like I'm a shot-maker," K.J. Lawson said. "I'm not just a three-point shooter. I'm not just a specialist three-point shooter, but I can score at all three levels, I think."

He also will be one of the veterans on an inexperienced KU roster. KU coach Bill Self already praised Lawson some last season, saying he believed that he'd turn into one of the team's best leaders in 2018-19.

"I don't really like to be one of those voice leaders — lip service," Lawson said. "I like to lead by example and tell the guys, not show them up in front of everybody, but tell them on the side like, 'This is what he thinks.' Being here for a year, a lot of guys don't know how Coach is."

K.J. Lawson believes he can help set a practice standard as well.

"Just keep doing it the right way — that's called integrity," he said. "You don't really get off track of what you do. You just keep doing the right thing when (Coach) is not watching. It's not about doing it in front of him."

Though Lawson has embraced his year away from competition, he's also ready for what the next few months will bring.

"I'm just excited to play someone else that doesn't have on a Kansas jersey, you know what I'm saying?" he said with a laugh. "I'm just ready to compete."


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