UK Lamb not b-a-a-d off bench
Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 5:15 pm
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — When Doron Lamb found out in November he would be coming off the bench to start his career at Kentucky, he didn’t make a fuss about it.
Coach John Calipari said he wouldn’t have blamed Lamb if he did, though, because Calipari knows how explosive Lamb can be once he gets going.
And it doesn’t take much to get him going.
Lamb scored 32 points Wednesday against Winthrop, breaking Jamal Mashburn’s 1991 school record for points in a game by a freshman. He shot 11-of-12 from the field, including 7-for-8 on 3-point attempts in 29 minutes.
All that while spending the first few minutes watching from the bench.
“That means nothing to me,” Lamb said of starting. “As long as you’re out there and producing, that’s what means the most.”
Against Winthrop, Lamb was Calipari’s first substitute, coming in for Brandon Knight with 15:50 left in the first half. He hit his first 3-pointer just 11 seconds later.
Lamb said he knew he was hot when he hit a 3-pointer from the left corner. He had already made a few shots from deep but this one was different.
“I didn’t even see the basket, I just threw it up,” Lamb said. “I just shot it up and it went in. After that, I knew every time I’d shoot the ball, it would go in.”
Calipari assigned Lamb to the bench because of his team’s lack of depth. The 11th-ranked Wildcats (9-2), who host Coppin State (4-5) tonight, use only a seven-player rotation and even that may be stretching it considering reserve center Eloy Vargas averages just 12.4 minutes per game.
With few options off the bench, Calipari uses Lamb as his security blanket if one of the starters comes out stale or gets in early foul trouble.
Last year, Calipari’s security blanket was DeAndre Liggins. Lamb sparks the Wildcats off the bench with his offense; Liggins jumped the Wildcats with his relentless defense, scrambling and diving all over the floor with his 6-foot-6 frame.
Liggins, now a full-time starter, said Lamb hasn’t approached him about advice for coming off the bench. Some people just get it, Liggins said.
“It’s easier to me to come off the bench but for some people, it’s harder because you have to get loose and all that,” Liggins said. “But you just have to have that mindset, watching the game as it begins so you know what to do when you come in. It’s different when you get plugged in all of a sudden but some guys are just better at it.
“He could start for any one of us but we need him off the bench since we don’t have that depth. We just need more guys coming off the bench to help us,” Liggins added.
Since Calipari told him he’d be coming off the bench, Lamb hasn’t publicly questioned the coach’s decision, although he said he initially struggled accepting the assignment. The last team that kept Lamb out of the starting lineup, he said, was his AAU team in eighth grade.
But the performance against Winthrop went a long way toward convincing the freshman he can produce considerably given 30 minutes a game, even if he’s not out there for the opening tip. Calipari said there’s not a player on his team with less pressure than Lamb, and there’s also not a player whose stock as a pro prospect is rising faster.
“He just goes in and lets it fly,” Calipari said.
One of the reasons Lamb chose Kentucky, he said, was because he trusts Calipari. So when he learned he’d be coming off the bench, he decided to just keep quiet.
“It was tough at first but I realized I’m doing good off the bench, doing better than I probably would have if I was starting,” Lamb said. “I’m playing really good right now so I’ll keep doing it as long as coach wants me to.”