NEW ORLEANS -- Doron Lamb made quite an impression on John Calipari -- in August.
“He’s our best basketball player,’’ Calipari said on Aug. 8 to ESPN.com.
“[Doron] can take the pressure off those freshmen so they don’t have to be anyone else but themselves.’’
Who knew that Lamb would be the most productive player in the national title game.
Lamb wasn’t the most dominant. That honor went to national player of the year Anthony Davis, who was able to finish off Kansas with 16 rebounds, six blocks and five assists in Kentucky’s 67-59 national championship win Monday night at the Superdome.
Lamb was the most offensive of any player wearing white Monday night.
He finished with 22 points, making three 3s and becoming the type of player who wins titles -- the one who is left open and seems to be the least discussed during all the pregame talk.
“You saw it,’’ said Calipari Monday night. “At shootaround he was unbelievable. I told him and the team that he was going to have 25, you watch. And he went about it the right way and prepared to play great and he did.’’
Kansas couldn’t find Lamb, especially in the first half.
“He played excellent,’’ Davis said. “He shot the ball well, pushed it in transition and didn’t get rattled. He didn’t get outmuscled.’’
Lamb helped extend the Wildcats’ lead into double figures fast.
“It feels great,’’ said Lamb of the title and his performance. “I told coach Cal at shootaround that I would have a great game. I had to turn out a big game and I made a ton of shots so I’m happy for my team. I’m happy for my teammates and I’m happy for myself.’’
Lamb said earlier this weekend that he spent a recruiting Midnight Madness in Lawrence but ultimately chose Kentucky over Kansas. Lamb is from Queens so he would have been a major hit for a New York-area school had he decided to stay home. But as soon as he went to Oak Hill Academy (Va.) he was national.
And, of course, by going to Kentucky he knew he gave up the chance to be a star.
He had his moments with Kentucky, scoring 32 points in a win over Winthrop last year. He had a few 26-point games earlier this season. But Lamb was never a primary option.
Davis was the focal point. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the drive on this team, always ready to make a play. Marquis Teague was the point. Terrence Jones was a matchup slasher and Darius Miller was a glue guy who could change the tone of the game.
But Lamb was always lurking as the Wildcats’ top shooter.
He saved his best for last.
Who knows if this means he’ll go to the NBA draft. He shouldn’t bolt when he has the chance to be a front-line star next season. He deserves his turn to be the focus on the perimeter.
“When I first got here, all they talked about was [title] No. 8 and now I’m sure it’s going crazy,’’ Lamb said. “I just had to make shots and be aggressive on offense.’’
Lamb seized the opportunity. That’s all anybody could ask and now he has a lifetime memory for himself and for Kentucky.