Dedric Lawson is one of the best players in college basketball, but you’d never know it by watching him play. He doesn’t jump high, he doesn’t run fast, he can barely dunk and he’s not too much of a threat from 3-point range.
Yet he’s averaging 19.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the No. 1 team in the country, Kansas.
He is college basketball’s Tim Duncan, a guy who looks like he kinda sucks, and yet is a walking box score.
Lawson had 28 points and 12 rebounds Saturday as Kansas beat No. 17 Villanova 74-71 in Lawrence, Kan., making it a game that was closer than it should have been. The Jayhawks are already playing without big man Udoka Azubuike, who is out with an ankle injury, and almost certainly would have lost to Villanova on Saturday had it not been for Lawson.
If you haven’t heard of Lawson, that’s probably because he spent the first two years of his career playing for Tubby Smith at Memphis, where he averaged 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds as a sophomore and 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds as a freshman.
Memphis is the kind of school that has to be pretty good for anybody to notice, and during Lawson’s time there Memphis was something less than “pretty good.” Combine that with Lawson’s below-the-rim game, and you can see how a 20-10 guy could get lost in all the madness.
He’s the kind of guy that seems like he’s not even having a good game, and then you notice he’s got 14 and eight in the first half, and isn’t even sweating.
A lot of people say Lawson has “old man game,” which is a nice shorthand for it. Without moving all that fast or doing anything that looks impressive at all, he noodles past defenders and slips the ball into the basket.
It’s the darnedest thing.
One year after the Kansas decided to join the rest of the basketball world in bombing from the perimeter, Bill Self’s Jayhawks are right back to their traditional high-low post game, with Lawson as the playmaker.
Without him, Kansas would be in some trouble this year. Azubuike is a reliable force inside, and Lagerald Vick has been the hottest perimeter shooting in the country so far. That’s bailed out the Jayhawks on a couple of occasions, but Lawson is the key to the whole thing. He’s the running game that opens up the pass … but he’s also the pass.
He’s going to average something like 20-10 this year for one of the best teams in the country, and nobody is really going to notice.