Eric Musselman put the finishing touches on next year’s Arkansas basketball roster Friday afternoon with the commitment of Chandler Lawson out of the transfer portal.
Barring any more player movement, the former Memphis forward is the Razorbacks’ 13th and final scholarship player for the 2023-24 season.
Having spent two years each at Oregon and Memphis, Lawson (6-7, 215) reportedly received interest from the likes of Cal, St. Louis, DePaul, Santa Clara, BYU and South Carolina upon entering the transfer portal on Monday.
However, he quickly zeroed in on Arkansas and was in Fayetteville for an official visit earlier this week. Two days after that trip, Lawson announced he’d finish his collegiate career with the Razorbacks.
Despite this being his second transfer, he’ll be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer. He has one more year to play because of the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.
Lawson is the sixth player out of the transfer portal to commit to the Razorbacks. A group ranked as the fifth-best transfer haul in the country by 247Sports, the first five — Khalif Battle from Temple, Keyon Menifield from Washington, El Ellis from Louisville, Tramon Mark from Houston and Jeremiah Davenport from Cincinnati — are already on campus.
They join incoming freshmen Layden Blocker and Baye Fall to give Arkansas eight newcomers this season. Davonte Davis, Trevon Brazile, Makhi Mitchell, Jalen Graham and Joseph Pinion form a five-man core of returners.
Chandler Lawson’s Previous Stops
A consensus four-star recruit in the Class of 2019, Chandler Lawson played his high school ball in Memphis — first under Penny Hardaway at East High for three years and then at Wooddale High for his senior year.
At East, Lawson played alongside the top-ranked recruit in his class and eventual No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, James Wiseman.
Offered by the likes of Baylor, Florida, Memphis, North Carolina State, Ole Miss and South Carolina, he ultimately signed with Oregon over Georgia Tech. Lawson checked in at No. 95 overall in the 247Sports Composite.
In two years playing for Dana Altman with the Ducks, Lawson appeared in 59 games with 20 being starts. He averaged 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 18.8 minutes and shot 51.5% from the field over those two years, but his numbers dipped slightly in his sophomore campaign and he hit the transfer portal.
Given a second chance at the recruiting process, Lawson opted to return home and play for his old high school coach, Hardaway, at Memphis.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury in late November of his junior season caused him to miss two months and limited his production in his first season with the Tigers.
Last season, Lawson was healthy and started 24 of 35 games while averaging 5.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes. He shot 56.7% from the floor and was also 7 of 14 from beyond the arc.
Even his free throw shooting improved this past season. After shooting just 55.8% from the stripe over his first three years in college, Lawson made 61.5% of his free throws in 2022-23.
It’s also worth noting that Lawson comes from a basketball family.
His father, Keelon, was a very good high school coach at Hamilton High in Memphis before joining the Tigers’ staff as an assistant under Tubby Smith. Both of Lawson’s older brothers and his younger brother play college basketball, as well.
Dedric and K.J. Lawson each spent two years at Memphis before transferring to Kansas, where the former led the Big 12 in scoring en route to All-America accolades and the latter spent one year before ending his career at Tulane. Johnathan, the youngest brother, played with Chandler at Memphis before transferring to Creighton earlier this summer.
No longer having any family ties to the Tigers, as well as Hardaway bringing in several new pieces to the frontcourt, likely played a role in Lawson’s decision to enter the transfer portal again.
What it Means for Arkansas Basketball
Chandler Lawson fills the final open scholarship on the Arkansas basketball roster.
His addition comes after the Razorbacks missed out on five-star recruit Ron Holland and North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson, who chose the G League and Alabama, respectively, instead of a year in Fayetteville before entering the NBA Draft.
Lawson may not have the same NBA upside that those two players possess, but considering the circumstances, he appears to be a solid depth piece for Arkansas’ front court.
Listed at 6-foot-7, 215, the Memphis native also has an incredible 7-foot-7 wingspan. That is five inches longer than the wingspan of Jordan Walsh, whose length wreaked havoc on opponents throughout the 2022-23 season and helped him get selected in the second round of the NBA Draft.
The 12-inch difference between Lawson’s height and wingspan is extremely unique. The largest difference in NBA history is believed to be held by Manute Bol, whose 8-foot-6 wingspan was 11 inches longer than his 7-foot-7 height.
Don’t get too excited about the prospect of Lawson using that length to effortlessly play above the rim, though. At Memphis’ Pro Day in October 2021, he recorded just a 30.5-inch vertical jump – well below the likes of Anthony Black (39), Ricky Council IV (37) and Walsh (36) at the NBA combine.
His numbers also don’t exactly jump off the page, especially compared to other high-level transfers, but it’s important to consider the state of the Arkansas basketball roster.
Lawson fills the final spot on a squad loaded with talent at nearly every position, especially in the backcourt. The biggest knock on the roster construction has been the lack of lengthy forwards who can defend the 3 and 4 at a high level in a complimentary role, most likely as a backup behind Trevon Brazile and the bevy of guards on the roster. He checks those boxes.
With that aforementioned wingspan, Lawson has recorded at least 1.0 combined blocks and steals per game in each of his four collegiate seasons despite averaging only 17.4 minutes. The Razorbacks likely won’t need him to step in and be a huge contributor, but if he can provide an occasional 10-15 minutes off the bench in a defensive-minded role while being in the right places offensively and not demanding the ball, he could be just what Arkansas needs.
Speaking of Brazile, it’ll be interesting to see if Lawson might experience similar growth as a shooter.
During his freshman year at Missouri, Brazile didn’t shoot a ton from beyond the arc, but did make 4 of 10 attempts over the Tigers’ final six games. Before getting hurt, he looked like one of the Razorbacks’ top shooters, going 11 of 29 (37.9%) from deep.
Over the first 103 games in college, Lawson attempted only 19 three-pointers and made six of them (31.6%). In his last eight games, though, he was 6 of 9 from deep — a stretch that included a regular-season game against Houston (2 of 3), three AAC Tournament games and one NCAA Tournament game.
The circumstances around that late-season surge are unknown, but it could be something to watch, in addition to his length.
Brandon Baker contributed to this story.
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