John Clay: Lamb's motor finely tuned for Kentucky

over the summer, coach proclaimed player as UK's best

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 20, 2011 

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Back in the summer, John Calipari raised a few eyebrows when he proclaimed Doron Lamb as Kentucky's best player.

This, like many other utterances from the active mind of the UK coach, required a Calipari clarification.

Upon explanation, he noted the 6-foot-4 guard from New York wasn't his tallest, or his fastest, or his strongest. Lamb was, however, his most complete player.

But now, through three games of the 2011-12 college basketball season, no explanation necessary.

Back home Tuesday night in his Big Apple, the King of Queens scored 17 points and dished four assists as second-ranked Kentucky took care of No. 12 Kansas in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Then Saturday, here among the ramblers and gamblers at the Mohegan Sun Casino — "Just go all the way past the slot machines and turn left," answered a casino worker when asked where someone might pick up media credentials — Lamb scored a game-high 26 points as the Cats pummeled Penn State 85-47 in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

"Why is Doron playing so well?" Calipari rhetorically asked afterward. "His motor's going."

"I'm glad he's not saying I don't have a motor anymore," said Lamb later.

His is in top gear. Lamb has made 18 of 33 field goals, nine of 16 three-pointers and 13 of 15 free throws. Moreover, he has 11 assists compared to just two turnovers.

"He's not playing a casual game, like he did last year at times," Calipari said. "Now he's got a motor running, and you see him out there, and you say, 'Man is he playing!' "

Off the court, Lamb is a casual guy, laid back and funny with a shy smile. Example: In the post-game locker room, the sophomore was asked about his new 2011-12 hairstyle.

"I'm just going to keep my hair a little nappy-fro this year," he said. "Last year, I had no time for getting haircuts and my hair was all messed up all the time. I'm just going to keep it nappy, it's better like this."

Nappy-fro?

"It's called 'Nappy Boy,'" he said with a smile.

Hairstyles aside, what has it been like coming back to your old stomping grounds?

"It was an honor to come back home in front of my family and friends and play in the Garden my second time," he said. "As a team, we all played great. I had fun out there in New York, off the court and on the court."

The team spent a rainy Wednesday in New York before continuing to Connecticut on Thursday. They toured ESPN's campus, even practiced in the World Wide Leader's Bristol gym.

Then Saturday, while Calipari admitted to be worried about the noon tip-off, the Cats took care of the Nittany Lions in short order, up 47-15 at the half.

Lamb hit the jackpot with 17 first-half points. His 26 points ranked second on his career scoring list to the 32 he rained down on Winthrop last season.

"Just as coach said, my motor is getting better," Lamb said. "I've been working out with (assistant coach) Kenny Payne before practice and off days, getting a lot of conditioning in on the treadmill. Just working on my ball-handling and my skills, and it's paying off on the court."

"He only had one turnover," Calipari said. "He's not our fastest. He doesn't jump the highest. He's not the longest. He's not the tallest. He just has a feel for the game."

Coming out of prep school wasn't Lamb known as primarily a shooter?

"In my opinion, he's the best two-point shooter in college basketball," Calipari said. "He's a good three-point shooter. But if he gets something from 15 to 17 feet, he's one of those guys, he makes that shot. I don't know if there's anybody better in college basketball."

And when it comes to choosing Kentucky's best all-around player, Cal is being proven once again correct.

Keep those 'brows down.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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