UK BASKETBALL

Lamb making case to start for Cats

Freshman earns more minutes

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 28, 2010 

Kentucky Wildcats guard Doron Lamb signaled Kentucky ball as Kentucky played Winthrop on Wednesday December 22, 2010 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

As the team's most accurate shooter and most prolific three-point scorer, Doron Lamb has reason to wonder why he's coming off Kentucky's bench. UK Coach John Calipari conceded the point during a news conference Monday.

"He could be in my office saying, 'I want to start,' " Calipari said. Or, the UK coach added, Lamb could be more blunt and say, " 'I should be starting.' "

And, the UK coach added, "he may be starting at some point."

For now, beginning with Tuesday night's shake-off-the-Christmas-glitter game against Coppin State, Lamb will continue contributing off the bench.

"It was tough at first," said Lamb, who drew a blank when asked to recall the last time he did not start.

At Oak Hill Academy, Lamb averaged 23 points, six rebounds and four assists as a senior starter. And those numbers mostly attest to what he did at one end of the floor.

"He ended up being a very good defender for us," Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith said. "We always put him on the best player for the opposing team. Point guard, shooting guard, small forward. Whoever we thought we had to put him on."

Oak Hill put a limit on its reliance on Lamb. He didn't guard the opponent's big man, although Smith recalled Lamb containing Jared Sullinger, whom Ohio State lists as 6-foot-9 and 280. Oak Hill played a triangle-and-two defense, so Lamb had help with Sullinger.

From Mr. Indispensable, Lamb became UK's sixth man as a freshman. Or, as Calipari prefers, "sixth starter." The UK coach did not assume Lamb would smoothly transition to coming off the bench. He sat the player down and explained why coming off the bench was the best role.

Even with Lamb highly productive off the bench, Calipari thought aloud of how the player could be logging more minutes than his average of 28.1.

"If I had one more point guard, he would be playing the most minutes," Calipari said in reference to Brandon Knight's average of team-leading 33.9 minutes.

Lamb is coming off his most productive game of the season. His 32 points against Winthrop not only represented a season high for any UK player, it set a record for a Kentucky freshman. Jamal Mashburn scored 31 points against Georgia during the 1990-91 season.

As a native of Queens, Lamb knew of Mashburn. Both played for the AAU team called the Gouchos.

But when a reporter noted that Lamb's 55.6-percent three-point shooting evoked memories of Jodie Meeks' sharp-shooting, the reference puzzled Lamb.

"I never saw him play, really," said Lamb, who noted that he only began following Kentucky last season.

Nor could Lamb relate to a reference to Vinnie Johnson, whose instant offense off the bench for the Detroit Pistons of the 1990s led to the nickname "Microwave."

While home for the holidays, Lamb basked in the reflection of the Winthrop game.

"Everybody saw the highlights on SportsCenter," he said. "They wanted to tell me about it."

Lamb saw his 11-for-12 shooting as an echo of the can't-miss nights on the high school level.

"I felt like each time I shot the ball, it was going in," he said.

That was never more true than on a three-pointer from the left corner. A defender contested the shot well enough to block Lamb's view of the basket.

"I just threw it up, and it went in," he said. "After that, I knew every time I shot it, it was going in."

Lamb smiled when a reporter asked if the left corner was his favorite spot. As the shooting guard, his job is to run down the left side of the court and station himself in that corner, he said.

"Everybody thinks that's my spot," he said. "That's not my spot."

And where is Lamb's spot?

"Anywhere," he said.

Calipari noted Lamb's feel for the game as "beyond the normal player." It's an attribute that can be linked to the player's father. Calvin Lamb led Long Island University in scoring in 1986-87 (19.2 ppg) and 1987-88 (20.2 ppg).

With defenses sure to pay more attention to Lamb, UK coaches are encouraging him to get his shot off quicker.

It's an adjustment Lamb would prefer not to need.

"They're leaving me open," he said of opposing defenses. "I hope they keep doing it."

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