No stranger to many sports-minded Memphians, Keelon Lawson’s headline count has ratcheted up in recent weeks.
The former boys’ basketball head coach at Hamilton High School is now an assistant coach for the University of Memphis men’s basketball program, Tigers head coach Josh Pastner announced last Wednesday (July 16).
Lawson’s sons – four deep – are newsmakers also. Two of them already have committed to play for the Tigers. In a win-win deal, Lawson gets to take his coaching to the next level as his sons keep their talent in their hometown and under his watchful eye.
Meanwhile, in the Lawson household there is one woman holding down the fort.
Meet Dedra Lawson – the glue that holds the Lawson boys together. The wife and mother is no stranger to basketball, having played for coach Herb Wright at Shelby State Community College (now Southwest Tennessee Community College) and having coached the LeMoyne-Owen College women’s basketball team.
No need for guesswork. Dedra Lawson could not be prouder of the decision her sons made committing to the University of Memphis and she is excited about her husband “coaching on the next level” after successful runs on other levels, including AAU basketball.
“It’s just a blessing that he was able to finish his degree and put things into place. It doesn’t matter what level of coaching he has been on, he’s always been a winner. He felt that it was time for him to try something different,” said Lawson.
The children are referred to on Twitter as the “Lawson Boys” and they even have their own unique logo. K.J. Lawson (Keelon Lawson II), Dedric Lawson, Chandler Lawson and Jonathan Lawson are athletic phenoms. K.J., a 6-7 wing player is in the Class of 2015. Dedric, a 6-9 forward, is in the Class of 2016. Chandler, a 6-6 wing, is ranked No. 1 nationally in the Class of 2019 by some sources. While the youngest, Jonathan, has earned national attention.
“They could have gone to any other school, Dedra said of K.J. and Dedric. “It was their decision. For them to be mature enough to even want to keep the family affair together, just shows how close knit of a family we really are. We try to instill in them that being together and regardless of what’s going on, you’ve got your brothers’ back and you’ve got your daddy’s back. I’m really happy that they did make that decision to go to Memphis.
“At the end of the day you may not have basketball, but you will have your family,” she said. “Basketball and the people who praise you one minute and may criticize you the next may not be there, but you’re going to have your family.”
Basketball – the
A 1990 Kirby High School graduate, Dedra attended Northwest for one year before transferring to Shelby State, where she earned her associate’s degree. She earned her bachelor’s degree from LeMoyne-Owen.
The Lawson’s met in college. By the time K.J. was 11, the husband-wife partnership had given birth to its organization, the Memphis Wildcats.
An experienced coach on the collegiate level, Dedra Lawson can offer sage advice, if – and when – she chooses.
“The advice I would try to give him is to watch and observe, which he does that anyway,” she said. “My biggest learning experience through this has been to keep my mouth shut. You hear so much criticism and it’s like, ‘Are you for real?’ I just hear all the negativity that people have said and I’ve learned to trust God and keep God first. That’s what has helped me the most.”
Growing up in Memphis, Lawson said she really didn’t have a difficult life, noting that her husband “may have lived in difficult situations. I went to Kirby at a time when it was a mixed culture. I’ve always been raised around diverse people. Memphis has shown me that it doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. One thing that we do have in common in this city of Memphis is basketball. “
‘We won’t let you down’
Dedra Lawson’s favorite Memphis restaurants are A&R Bar-b-que and Blues City Café. As a family, you may see the Lawsons having dinner at O’Charley’s, Chili’s or Red Lobster.
“They love seafood,” she said, laughing.
“Dedric, Chandler and my husband eat more than the rest. It’s really not that hard (to keep them fed) because they don’t overindulge when it comes to food. We try to eat healthy. We eat a lot of fish, vegetables and fruit.”
If she could tell the people of Memphis anything, she would keep it simple and direct.
“We appreciate your support. We appreciate your opened arms and we won’t let you down,” she said, taking advantage of the opportunity.
“My boys are so excited,” she added. “They’re ready to go to college. They are so excited about this transition.”
‘Great fit’ Lawson joins ‘Tigers basketball family’
The University of Memphis issued a press release last week about the hiring of Keelon Lawson as an assistant coach on the staff head basketball coach Josh Pastner.
“We’re excited about Keelon joining our staff,” said Pastner. “Keelon is a great fit for our program. We welcome Keelon to the Tigers basketball family.”
From 2003 through this past season, Lawson served as the Hamilton High School boys’ basketball head coach. During that time, he guided the Wildcats to three Tennessee state playoff appearances (2006, 2008, 2014), two district titles (2006, 2007), two regional crowns (2006, 2014) and one state championship (2006).
The 2006 Hamilton squad posted a perfect 39-0 record on its way to winning the Tennessee state title. That squad is the last from the city of Memphis to post an undefeated record en route to claiming a state championship. The 2006 Wildcats finished the season ranked No. 7 in the final USA Today Super 25 High School Boys Basketball poll.
Following the 2005-06 season, Lawson was honored as the Tennessee Sports Writers Association (TSWA) Coach of the Year and the Memphis Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Coach of the Year.
Lawson, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Union University, also served as the Hamilton High School athletics director from 2003-08.
“I’m thrilled and grateful for this opportunity,” said Lawson. “I’m looking forward to working with Coach Pastner and his staff to help carry on the great tradition of Tigers basketball.”