UConn's Lamb leaving early for NBA

Jeremy Lamb, UConn's leading scorer, announced Tuesday he is leaving school after just two seasons to make himself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft in June.
Jeremy Lamb, UConn's leading scorer, announced Tuesday he is leaving school after just two seasons to make himself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft in June. AP File Photo

His decision was a difficult but logical one.

Projected to be a late lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft, UConn sophomore Jeremy Lamb had good reason to forgo his final two years of his eligibility and enter the draft pool.

Lamb did just that, declaring his intentions on Tuesday.

"It was a difficult decision, but after much prayer and discussion with my parents, I feel that it's in the best interest of me and my family to declare myself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Lamb said in a released statement. "I have very much enjoyed my two years at UConn, especially getting to experience one of the greatest feelings that a college player can have, winning the national championship."

Lamb, a 6-foot-5 guard, nearly left school after helping the Huskies win a national championship in 2011. This past season he elevated his draft stock, earning All-Big East first team and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors. He led the Huskies in scoring at 17.7 points per game and averaged 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals.

He's one of six sophomores in school history to score 1,000 career points and ranks 42nd on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,060 points.

Coach Jim Calhoun believes Lamb is ready for the rigors of professional basketball. He said that Lamb promised to return to school to finish his degree.

"It's never easy to lose a great player from your program, but Jeremy has a unique opportunity that he needs to take advantage of," Calhoun said. "He's been a great kid to coach for the past two years ... His teams have won 52 games, been to two NCAA tournaments, and won a national championship. I look forward to him developing into a terrific player in the NBA."

Calhoun has a good track record of gauging his players' draft status. Of the other 13 Huskies who departed school early for the NBA, all but one - Khalid El-Amin who went 34th in 2000 - was selected in the first round. Ten Huskies went in the top 10.

Most mock drafts place Lamb in the 10-to-12 range.

Lamb is just the fourth UConn sophomore to turn pro, joining Rudy Gay (eighth pick, 2006), Charlie Villanueva (seventh, 2005) and Caron Butler (10th, 2002). He thanked the entire coaching staff and his teammates for helping him improve.

"I have learned a lot, both on and off the basketball court as well as in the classroom, and I feel as if I'm ready to take the next step in my basketball career," Lamb said. "I intend to successfully complete the current semester academically as I get prepared for the draft."

UConn freshman Andre Drummond will likely join Lamb in the draft pool. He's projected to be a top five pick. He has until April 29 - the NBA's deadline - to make a decision but could make an announcement sooner.

g.keefe@theday.com

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