For Doron Lamb, it has been easy not to think about a potential NBA career this season for one reason — he wants to win a national championship.
“It would mean a lot to me in my second year in college,” said the Kentucky sophomore guard. “We went to the Final Four my freshman year and my second year I¿am on a great team and that would be a great college career by itself.
“That was my main focus this year. Right now we are on a good pace and playing great.We want this to lead to a national championship.”
Lamb has averaged 13.2 points per game —up slightly form 12.3 per game last season. Going into Thursday night’s NCAA Tournament opener in Louisville, he has scored 911 career points and if UK makes another deep NCAA run he should go over the 1,000-point mark.
He’s a career 47 percent shooter from 3-point range and has already taken as many 3-pointers (140) this year in 34 games that he took in 38 games last season. However, he insists he’s become a more patient shooter as well.
“This year I look for shots when they are there and don’t really force shots. I just try to make plays and that is what I¿am going to do for my team,” Lamb said. “I have got way better. My talent is way better and I can do more things. I¿have a lot more to my game.”
He played well last March when Kentucky upset Ohio State and North Carolina on the way to the Final Four and his only regret was that he did not take more shots in the national semifinal loss to Connecticut, a possible opponent for UK on Saturday. He insists last year’s tourney experience will help him this season.
“It will help me a lot really. I¿know how to win close games in tournament and how to compete with the best for 40 minutes,” Lamb, an 84.7 percent shooter at the foul line this season, said. “You just have to go out there and play 40 minutes. Teams will play hard against us. We have to go out there and play great to win, and we can do that.
“It was a good lesson for all of us, just not the freshmen, when Vanderbilt beat us. We have to jump on teams and know they are going to play hard with nothing to lose.”
LSU guard Andre Stringer played AAU against Lamb and has seen his game progress at Kentucky.
“I think he definitely has a great (shooting) stroke. He can really shoot the ball. He knows the angles and is one of the smartest players around,” Stringer said. “He knows the game very well.¿Obviously his ability to shoot the ball stretches the defense. That gives their whole team a lift.
“I have definitely seen him change from AAU to now. I think he has really worked a lot on his angles and is shooting the ball extremely well now even though he always shot well. I think he now plays defense well, too.”
Lamb says that defensive improvement by him and his teammates is one reason he believes UK can win the national championship it barely missed last year.
“Defense is there for us every game. We know how to play without fouling if we just play smart,” he said. “Young guys have learned you have to come out way harder and compete even more. Teams are going to know plays in the tournament. You have to come to the ball and be ready. I have told them what it will be like and how hard teams will play in the tournament.”
“We just want to keep playing the way we have been all season. We have got better as a team and individually. Winning games, that’s our only focus and has been all year. I want to win every game. I don’t even think it about being the tournament. We just want to win games.”
Lamb isn’t sure what he’ll do about the NBA once the season ends. Last year he contemplated putting his name into the draft but changed his mind. Kentucky coach John Calipari has indicated he expects Lamb to be a first-round draft pick and leave UK.
“Coach tells us just to play hard and finish the season hard,” Lamb said. “We want to play great, but that is how we have felt all year. We are not worried about things after the season. We just take it one game at a time and play and that’s what we really have to keep doing now.”