A shooter shoots. That's how Jeremy Lamb became one, and that's how he remains one.
"I put up -- no, I make about 350 shots a day," Lamb says. "Sometimes more, but an average day, I make 300 to 350 a day. Takes me about an hour, hour and a half."
"I practice mid-range and threes equally," Lamb says.
He shoots quietly, often in an empty, darkened gym. It takes all kinds to make a team, and Lamb is the serious, laid-back one on the defending national champion Huskies. It's not unusual for him to let out a yawn in the middle of an interview, but make no mistake, he's got what Paul Hewitt, who coached Lamb in Europe this past summer, calls "the killer instinct."
Lamb, who made the Associated Press preseason All-America team, is listening, learning and, as his sophomore year begins, he has been transitioning steadily from good to great. It gets back to all those shots.
"He has a wonderfully soft shot," says Steve Sobel, who coached Lamb's team in the Greater Hartford Pro Am the past two summers. "Very good rotation and he squares unusually well. He became a superior game-changer this [past] summer. Last year, he could change a game, but not with the tools and mental outlook he has now. He improved dramatically in wanting the ball in his hands to make a key bucket."
Shabazz Napier can take on the ball-handling chores left behind by Kemba Walker, and perhaps Alex Oriakhi, the oldest player on the team, can handle the vocal leadership. Walker's 23.5 points a game, and so many in the clutch moments, will have to come from somewhere.
"I'll have to pick up the scoring role," Lamb said. "Kemba's a 20-point scorer, and that role definitely opened up. We've got a lot of scorers -- Andre Drummond, Shabazz is a point guard, but he can score. We've got a lot of weapons, but my role on the team is to score as well as play defense."
Kevin Freeman, who played on UConn's 1999 championship team, rejoined the program as assistant director of basketball administration. He took his first look at Lamb and was immediately reminded of an illustrious teammate.
"He's so much like Rip [Hamilton], it's unbelievable," Freeman said. "When I see him, I start to say, 'Hey, Rip.' "
C.W. Post coach Chris Casey, a former assistant at St. John's, watched Lamb pour in 23 points rather effortlessly in UConn's last exhibition game.
"He's turned himself into a well-rounded player and that's what they do [at UConn]," Casey said. "They make guys better. He can get to the basket, he can score in transition and he makes shots. So he does everything."
Lamb, from Norcross, Ga., won't have to do everything for the Huskies, ranked No. 4 in the major polls as the season starts, but he is poised to take on the role of best player left behind by Walker. It began late last season when, after being benched for one game, Lamb came on strong, averaging 16.8 points in the NCAA Tournament, including 24 in the Elite Eight game vs. San Diego State.
In the final against Butler, when few were shooting well, Lamb found his groove in the second half, scoring 12 points.
He went to Europe and continued to blossom, scoring 35 as well as the winning shot in an OT victory over Lithuania in the U19 championship game.
"It gave me confidence," Lamb said. "I had to handle the ball more, create my shot. Get a little tougher. They play real physical over there.
Got me a little tougher. I spent a lot of time in the gym -- I had no choice but to get better."
Briefly, Lamb considered entering the NBA Draft, but he and his family decided another year at UConn would be best. Just for fun, he continued to burn it up in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am, getting bigger and stronger all the time.
"The experience in Europe truly helped him take a significant leap in how he sees himself mentally and physically as a player," Sobel said. "He can dominate a game even by not scoring as his length is so critical to his success on defense, too."
As was often referenced last March, Jeremy's father, Rolando Lamb, hit a last-second shot for VCU to eliminate Jim Calhoun's Northeastern team in the 1984 NCAA Tournament. Rolando Lamb holds workshops for players and coaches in Georgia. Jeremy brought humility with him to UConn, offering only his trademark "Lamb Shake" as a glimpse into his behind-the-scenes personality. He does insist he is "goofy" away from the court.
After his big game against San Diego State, Lamb laconically told reporters he "hadn't done that much." The AP preseason honor didn't get much in the way of self-congratulation, either. Lamb shoots, and he shakes and, as President Barack Obama said when the Huskies visited the White House, "he lets his play do the talking."
How many guys get 24 points in the Sweet 16 and give all the credit to somebody else," Calhoun said after that game. "He's a humble kid, let's keep it that way."
Jeremy Lamb, The Preseason All-American