Lotta talk today about Jeremy Lamb's emergence as a Big East Rookie of the Year candidate, and deservely so.
Lamb has arguably been UConn's best player overall (yup, even better than Kemba) over the past few weeks. He's averaged 17.1 points in his last six games, shooting 57 percent from the floor in that span and upping his Big East average to 12.7 ppg. He's been the league's Rookie of the Week the past two weeks.
So it's hard to argue he's not right in the running for the league's top rookie award. Right now, he's got to be neck-and-neck with DePaul's Cleveland Melvin as the favorite. Melvin (a one-time UConn commit) has the better numbers, averaging 18.2 per game in Big East play, sixth overall in the conference. Melvin's also eighth overall in rebounding (6.7) and ninth in blocked shots (1.45).
Impressive stuff, no doubt. But it's important to note that he's doing it for a team that's 0-11 in league play. On a young, terrible team, Melvin is the focal point of the offense -- and while certainly making the most of the opportunity, it would be interesting to see what kind of numbers Melvin and Lamb would put up if they switched teams.
I'll agree with the opinion of Jim Calhoun, who never mentioned Melvin by name but clearly had him on his mind.
"(Lamb's) team has to win every night, his team is in the top 10. Every game he plays, there’s a great deal of pressure on him ... I give a lot more credit to winning than I do to anything else."
In other words, scoring 14 points in a win over Villanova or 10 in a key, comeback win over Seton Hall holds more merit than tossing in 24 in another double-digit loss. Kinda like debating whether Felix Hernandez of the last-place Mariners or CC Sabathia of the first-place Yankees should win the Cy Young award (of course, King Felix wound up winning that award in a big victory for the sabermetrics crowd).
For his part, the soft-spoken, unassuming Lamb isn't focusing too much on any potential individual honors.
“I haven’t really thought about it," he said. "Of course that would be a big accomplishment, but I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve just been trying to stay focused on what we’re doing right now.”
Lamb said that entering the season, “I wanted to average double-digit points. That was probably the only thing. I just wanted to come in, get stronger, and really just see if I could play on this level.”
He added that his improved play of late really just boils down to being more confident.
"You can have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t have confidence, you’re not going to do stuff you know you can do," he said. "My teammates, Coach Calhoun, have been telling me, ‘You can do this, you can do that.’ My dad talked to me. It’s confidence level."
Noted Kemba Walker: “He’s just more aggressive. He just knows how to score now. He knows how to pick his spots, where his hot spots are. He’s just really finding out how to put the ball in the hole.”