Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Doron Lamb, the best player on Kentucky?

Love him or hate him, the one thing you have to admit about John Calipari is that he has this college basketball coaching gig figured out.

Be it the way he recruits players to Lexington, his effort to get his recruits to the NBA as quickly as possible, the pro days that he hosted on campus, the UK Legends game, or the fact that he is bringing back former players and current NBA stars as student assistants during the lockout, he always seems to be two steps ahead of the rest of his coaching brethren.

The other thing about Coach Cal is that everything he says -- even if he is taking a shot at Coach K -- is intentional and for a purpose, which is why his comments about Doron Lamb piqued my interest:

"He's our best basketball player."


"Terrence has used this time to get stronger and I'm hoping Darius will use this experience overseas to help him. But Doron is a better player, in better shape and he can take the pressure off those freshmen so they don't have to be anyone else but themselves."


"In my opinion, he's going to be one of the top-15 players in the country. He was a freshman last season and it's hard for those guys to be consistent. The same thing occurred for Terrence Jones. [Lamb] has a great feel for the game. He was here for most of the summer and is now home for three weeks in New York before school starts. These are a big three weeks for him."

Hold fast.

Doron Lamb as Kentucky's best player? This is the same team that has two potential all-americans and lottery picks in Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, two more top ten incoming recruits in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, and a second five that would finish in the top half of the Pac-12.

And Lamb is the best player, a guy Coach Cal expects to be a top 15 player in the country? Isn't there a chance that Lamb doesn't even start next season?

"Best" is a tricky term. On last year's Final Four team, there's a legitimate argument to be made that Josh Harrellson was their most valuable player. He provided something -- size, toughness inside, rebounding -- that the Wildcats were unable to get from anyone else. Lamb will find himself in a similar role this season. For all the talent and the potential on the Kentucky roster, they don't have all that much perimeter shooting, especially when you consider that Jon Hood is out with a torn acl.

I'm not criticizing Lamb here. He averaged 12.3 ppg and shot 48.6% from three despite being known for his mid-range game. And while he had your typical, freshman ups-and-downs, he did have some big games -- 32 points on 11-12 shooting (7-8 from deep) against Winthrop and 24 points at North Carolina.

If Lamb is more consistent -- and more assertive offensively -- next season while showing improvement as a ball-handler and a distributor, he'll be one of the best off-guards in the SEC.

The best player on Kentucky? One of the top 15 players in the country?

If that's true, it either means that Davis, Jones and company didn't live up to their expectations or that Lamb has become really, really good.

Kentucky fans will be hoping for the latter.

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