Mysterious Lampe ventures into great unknown

NEW YORK -- You're just like Carmelo Anthony. Yes, you, American basketball fan.

Anthony hasn't seen Darko Milicic post anybody up, either.

"I've never seen him play," Anthony said of Milicic, the teenager from Serbia-Montenegro who'll be taken one spot ahead of Anthony by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 2 pick in tonight's NBA draft.

"I don't know him," Anthony added. "Obviously, he must be good if they put him in front of me as the No. 2 pick."

LeBron James is just like you, too. He's only seen highlights of Milicic. "But it wasn't enough to judge his game," James said.

At least the American public has seen Milicic on TV and been gradually educated about the 18-year-old's potential along with James the past six months. The same can't be said for the European prospect who could join James, Milicic and Anthony as a top-five selection, Maciej Lampe of Poland.

Outside of Milicic, no young Euro in the draft may possess more talent than Lampe, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound forward with Nowitzkiesque upside. Among the 12 foreign players expected to be drafted in the first round, no one is creating more intrigue.

And Lampe loves the fact that he's the draft's greatest unknown. He's not lost on the advantage foreign players have over older college players whose abilities have been scrutinized and critiqued, too.

"It's hard to see what we really can do in one workout," admitted Lampe, who'll be the first Poland-born player to be drafted by the NBA. "If you have a great workout, they might think you're unbelievable. If you have a bad one, you might go low. It's kind of hard to describe.

"But the fact that I'm European -- honestly? -- it helps because the NBA wants to develop its league in Europe. And they want to have a lot of guys from different countries playing in the league. So I think it helps."

Lampe not only embraces the shroud of mystery surrounding him but he hid behind it when asked about his specific skills during Wednesday's Q&A session with the media. While being given the third degree by reporters, Lampe basically pled the fifth -- in perfect English.

Question: What kind of big man are you? Answer: "I don't really like to talk about my game that much."

Question: Who's your role model? Answer: "I don't like comparing myself to anyone."

The guessing game eventually ended. Under the bright lights, Lampe broke down and began to talk.

On which position he'd most like to play in the NBA: "It depends which way you want to go. If you want to play the four, you have to gain a lot of weight and be a lot stronger. If you want to play the three, you have to get a lot quicker. It all depends what the coach wants. Who knows? Maybe the coach will want me to play center. Then I'll have to work on other things. So it all depends on the team."

On his combo forward role this season: "I played four but I stepped out a lot, kind of like Pau Gasol, something like that."

On how Dirk Nowitzki became his role model: "Dirk didn't even play that much in Europe. But he came over here and worked really hard and look where he is now. It's kind of like what if that happens to (me)?"

Unlike most European players, Lampe apparently isn't afraid to mix it up down low. He sported a nasty-looking cut on the left side of his eye suffered in Tuesday's workout with the Miami Heat -- "I had to quit in the middle of it because they thought it might be fractured, but it wasn't," he said -- and unlike most Europeans, he's a fan of hockey, not soccer.

This past season, Lampe put up big numbers for Real Madrid, but mostly for the Spanish powerhouse's top minor-league squad. "It helped me a lot," Lampe said of his loan to Universidad Complutense of LEB1, the highest of the Spanish minor leagues, where he averaged 18.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 17 games.

Lampe received only 38 minutes of action in four Euroleague games for the big club. But on draft night, you might hear Lampe's name called by commissioner David Stern before T.J. Ford, Dwyane Wade, Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, maybe even as high as fifth overall pick by Miami.

And Joe Basketball Fan's response will most likely be: Maciej who?

"Once you get out there, you show what you can do," Lampe said. "Let them do the talking. You don't have to say anything."


Joe Lago is the NBA editor at ESPN.com.