ST. FRANCIS – Around the world they went, Jim Boylan feeding Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and Doron Lamb for jump shots. Five attempts at a time, from inside and outside the 3-point arc. Boylan counted out the makes and misses in the friendly competition, and the rookie more than held his own before finally bowing out first from the deep corner as Ellis and Jennings went to sudden death.
Lamb's shooting stroke is smooth, confident. It's quiet, not unlike the player himself. His body moves little once his feet are set, the ball spinning off his hands in perfect rotation.
He was one of six Kentucky Wildcats drafted this spring, and was an integral part of a national champion. The Queens, N.Y., native was a highly sought after recruit out of Oak Hill Academy, a McDonald's All-American that Wildcats coach John Calipari had to beat out Connecticut and Kansas for.
Lamb had all of the same prep accolades, yet he was the quiet one of the six Wildcats drafted, the one without the attention of eventual No. 1 pick Anthony Davis or No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague were also first round picks.
Yet on his Kentucky bio page, Calipari said this of Lamb: "Doron is our best basketball player."
It's one of the reasons Bucks veteran Drew Gooden said Lamb would be the biggest surprise on the team in 2012-13.
"I think a lot of people are underestimating him," Gooden said. "I watched him play and the situation that he's coming from, nobody's really seen him play. But I think he has a great chance to be a sleeper."
That's Lamb. He's got heavy eyelids and a soft voice. Even his New York accent is hard to detect. On the court, he moves in an effortless way, which makes him an exciting prospect – even if quiet and exciting don't exactly go together.
"He's an under control player," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "Offensively he generally doesn't make many mistakes. If he's open he shoots the ball; if he's covered he tries to put it on the floor and make plays for other people. It seems like obvious things to do but a lot of players don't understand that, especially young players. He understands that. He's got the ability at some point too, to be a very, very good defensive player. He's not there yet but at some point, with a lot of work and focus, he could be also be very good on that end.
"His style of play is such that he's not going to do too much out there that he can't do."
In his introductory press conference following draft day, Lamb was the quiet one. He leaned back in his chair, allowing John Henson, Scott Skiles and John Hammond to be at the forefront. When asked what his role might be on the Bucks, he leaned forward and made the microphone work as he answered simply: "I'm going to go there and just work hard, make open shots. Come off screens and make shots."
He did that through the summer rookie practices and leagues, but he missed most of training camp with a torn ligament in his left, non-shooting, elbow. It was the first time in his young basketball life that he was injured, let alone missing time.
"When I first got hurt I thought I bruised it or something like a week or a couple days injury," he said. "But when I went to the doctor and he told me I tore the muscle, I didn't know that. He told me I'd be out for almost a month, or even the whole preseason, whole training camp, and I was a little upset about that. I just had to fight through it, rehab and take care of it and make sure I'd be back one hundred percent."
He began shooting as early as allowed, first with a huge wrap on his left arm, and then finally a brace. Eventually he was cleared to play, and appeared in the Bucks final two preseason games, scoring 12 points in 20 minutes of action against both Charlotte and Minnesota. He was 0 for 4 from behind the 3-point line, but shot 58 percent from the field overall (11 for 19).
"When I first shot the ball it was a little funny to me because I had the brace on. I've never shot a ball with a brace," he said. "Now I've got a brace and I've got a cover over it so it's a little heavy on my left arm. I had to get comfortable shooting with that on for a week or two."
In a crowded backcourt, beginning with Jennings, Ellis and Beno Udrih, Marquis Daniels and Mike Dunleavy, it will take time for Lamb to find time on the court. Through the Bucks first two regular season games, he's played eight total minutes and registered just one steal.
Quiet. So far.
He's learning though, with a new skill developed through his injury.
"I looked at (the game) from the outside," Lamb said. "I looked at people's games and look how the offense is run and how coach wants you to play. I was looking at everything and learning a lot off the court. A lot of vet players were teaching me what to do on the court and how to represent yourself and carry yourself off the court.
"It helped me a lot off the court; how people react on the court, how everybody plays their game, where they want the ball out, how coach coaches – I saw all that off the court. I know a lot now."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.