UCONN Jack (and Jeremy and Andre)

Jeremy Lamb is often silent.

The August 6, 2011 rap battle that pitted him against then-teammate Alex Oriakhi illustrates this law of nature.  It is plausible (likely, even) that the verbal fracas had a relatively innocuous origin – perhaps the teammates had tied in a game of one-on-one and felt that a war of words would better determine a winner than the standard overtime period.  Nevertheless, you can feel the venom as Oriakhi asks, “How’s this kid tough? / He’s light skinned,” and just know that Jeremy won’t have a good answer.  After expressing doubt about Lamb’s weight, a sentiment now shared by NBA draft analysts and league executives, Oriakhi eulogizes his opponent: “I just killed this fool/ R.I.P. J-Lamb.”  In a follow up interview conducted today via Twitter, @aoriakhi42 (now a member of the Missouri Tigers) confirmed the victory.

ESPN’s Chad Ford worries about Lamb’s tendency to “be passive at times on offense.”  A recent article in the Hartford Courant headlined “Lamb Fighting Laid-Back Reputation” seemed to include more acquiescing than fighting from Lamb.  “I have to find ways to keep my energy up…But at times, it looks like I’m not trying,” the shooting guard conceded.  Even President Obama has acknowledged Lamb’s sheepish demeanor.  Fans – not to mention teammates, coaches, and the media – want players to wear their heart on their shooting sleeve, and interpret Lamb’s aloofness as indifference.  During the final seconds of Iowa State’s 77-64 slaughtering of UCONN, a defeat that sent the defending champion Huskies home without winning an NCAA Tournament game, Lamb tragically whiffed on an attempted windmill dunk so gratuitous and ill-advised that it became emblematic of the entire season, arguably the most tumultuous in UCONN’s history.

The concerns about Lamb, however, pale in comparison to the uncertainty surrounding Andre Drummond, the enigmatic big man.  While Ford and others gush about his potential, the only consensus on the former UCONN Husky is that there isn’t one.  Every article that mentions Drummond’s name is obligated to include his measly free throw percentage, so here goes: Andre Drummond shot 29.5% from the line in 2011-2012.  The thought of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich licking his chops to deploy the Hack-a-Shaq defense on Drummond makes me giggle, but is probably accurate.  Drummond is considered a “raw” prospect, the implication being that an untapped reservoir of talent exists somewhere inside of him, but, like an uncooked carrot, is not ready to join the dinner table/starting rotation of a good team just yet; moreover, there is no guarantee he ever will be.  Many teams, wary of risking a high draft pick on such rawness, may prefer the refined game of Tyler Zeller or Thomas Robinson, players comfortable with their bodies and more acutely aware of its limitations (steamed carrots in the vegetable metaphor).  Not surprisingly, Zeller (22) and Robinson (21) are older than Drummond (18).

Drummond’s “motor” is his other glaring question mark.  He spent the second half of his high school career at Connecticut hoops powerhouse St. Thomas More, and, in a promotional video for the school, inadvertently validates criticism of his work ethic.  When asked to describe a typical day at St. Thomas More, Drummond takes it upon himself to differentiate between a “good” day (beginning with a 6:00 a.m. workout) and a “lazy” day (beginning at 8:00 a.m., no workout).  His detractors claim that there are more of the latter.

The only thing that can be said with conviction about Drummond is this: Andre Drummond has firmly established himself within the pantheon of perplexing Dres, alongside the likes of WTAM’s Andre Knott and USC offensive tackle/a cappella enthusiast Aundrey “Rozay” Walker.

Together, Lamb and Drummond form the most tantalizing duo to enter the draft since Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins.  (There have even been murmurs about the Kings selecting Drummond at no. 5; if it happens, Drummond, Boogie, and Jimmer Fredette need to buy a one-bedroom apartment and begin filming a reality show immediately.)  I would be content if either/both of them became a Cavalier, not only for their potential, but because I don’t totally buy into the recurring non-basketball criticisms (i.e. cavalier attitude, lack of a “motor”) that plague their their scouting report.  There is Internet evidence that Lamb can be genuinely happy – look at the unbridled glee on his face as he teaches UCONN President Herbst his trademark dance, the Lamb Shake.  I really want to Lamb Shake now, and I bet you do, too!  Drummond has the chance to become an elite center, which can’t be said for Zeller, Meyers Leonard, or anyone else in this draft class.  He comes across as engaging and pleasant in interviews, unlike the petulant Andrew Bynum, a previous boom-or-bust big man frequently compared to Drummond.

While I’m defending Lamb and Drummond, one last thing to consider: It must’ve been pretty bad to play major college basketball on a campus that’s known for its women’s team.

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