Jayhawk Insider: Opening Statement
By Adam Sullivan
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After sitting out last season, Kansas junior Dedric Lawson made his debut in the crimson and blue Friday night as the Jayhawks defeated Emporia State 93-55 in their exhibition opener. Lawson, who has earned high praise around the nation including being named a preseason All-American, didn’t disappoint. Lawson led all scorers with a 31-point, 15-rebound effort as KU opened up its exhibition campaign.
“He (Lawson) makes the game look so easy at times on the court,” said KU teammate Quentin Grimes. “Not just for himself, but for his teammates out there (too). It’s really fun to be out there playing with him.”
With KU’s offense stagnant early, Lawson opened the night scoring the first 10 points of the game for KU as the Jayhawks built an early lead.
“There were some highlights and good things early, but not nearly enough,” Kansas head coach Bill Self stated. “But also I told the guys before the game, you’re not going to play and work for this stuff’ so (watching) tape will be a good teaching tool.”
Lawson used the Hornets defensive tactics to his advantage. Emporia State elected to double team Udoka Azubuike for most of the night, allowing Lawson to create offensive opportunities. After making a few layups early, the 6-9 forward buried his first attempt from deep.
“They were trapping Azubuike and we had practiced it earlier in shootaround,” Lawson explained. “Just the four man cutting to the basket and he found me a couple times which got me in rhythm. Lagerald (Vick) found me again in the corner, I made the 3-ball and after that I was in rhythm and just playing.”
“Just playing” isn’t an accurate description of how Lawson played. In the opening half, Lawson recorded a double-double and headed into the locker room with 14 points and 12 rebounds. His final tally of 15 rebounds was just one shy of a career best, which propelled KU to win the rebounding battle against the Hornets, 59-31.
Despite the impressive stat line and victory, Lawson knows he has much to improve on.
“Coach said it was the ugliest 31 points he had ever seen,” Lawson stated. “I agree with him; it was a sloppy game, but it was also our first time out there. As the season goes on and as we get these next couple of practices under our belts, the game will get easier for us.”
Lawson’s 31 points is the most by a Jayhawk in an exhibition game as far back as the 2008-2009 season. The redshirt junior shot 50 percent and connected on two 3-pointers to lead all scorers which earned praise from Emporia State’s head coach Craig Doty.
“Thirty-one points, 15 rebounds: That’s a night,” Doty said after the game. “That’s efficiency. He’s going to be a massive nightmare throughout the Big 12 this season. You guys saw a very special player who you should be very excited about.”
Kansas will conclude exhibition action when it hosts Washburn on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. (Central) in Allen Fieldhouse. The game will be televised on the Jayhawk Television Network and ESPN+.
This will be KU’s 41st meeting all-time with Washburn and the eighth in exhibition play. The Jayhawks lead the all-time series 37-3, with the most recent meeting coming on Nov. 1, 2016. Kansas won that match-up, also in exhibition play, 92-74, in Lawrence.