Lamb turns Wildcat, goes from L.E.S. to Final Four


By Eddie Rivera

One year ago Doron Lamb made the decision to head to Kentucky for the next phase of his basketball journey. There was no doubt in Doron’s mind that Kentucky was where he wanted to be. 

His journey started out on the Lower East Side, where he grew up and still has family; and it included stops in Greenwich Village, where he attended both Our Lady of Pompeii School and St. Joseph’s School.

I had another great opportunity to hang out with Doron and his family at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on March 25 and 27, when Kentucky played in the N.C.A.A. Tournament East semifinals and finals.

Before the March 25 contest against Ohio State, Doron was very focused and ready for the game. He took a few minutes to share some of this experience with me.

When asked about his transition from high school to college, Doron replied, “It was very smooth coming from Oak Hill Academy [in Virginia], which was a great stepping stone leading to this phase. It prepared me well from the smallest task to the greatest task; it helped me to be well-rounded.”

About the rabid basketball culture in the Bluegrass State, he said, “In Kentucky some people call us the Big Blue Nation — ‘Go Cats’ or ‘Go Blue’ — whatever way it comes out, we are all one big basketball family, we bleed blue.

“I have made many great relationships with classmates and teammates that will last forever,” he added. “All of my teammates are great guys. However, the one and only Terrence Jones brings out the giggles in me, always keeping it positive.”

The season started Nov. 12 against East Tennessee State University at home, with three highly recruited freshmen — including Doron — who needed to grow up fast.

Doron also developed a special relationship with Kentucky super-fan Mr. Bob Wiggins. Bob has attended Kentucky home and away games for the last 19 years, and, at last count, had attended 603 games.

Asked about his relationship with Doron, Bob replied, “When Doron hits a 3-pointer, he looks at me and puts up three fingers over his eyes, and I’ll do the same.” 

Doron went on to score 20 points in his college debut, shooting 7 for 10 from the field against East Tennessee State University, including 3-for-5 shooting on 3-pointers, 3 assists and 5 rebounds. Doron set a Kentucky freshman record with 32 points against Winthrop on Dec. 22.

The Wildcats’ Southeastern Conference record was 10-6 this season, and their regular season record was 27-8. Beating Florida to win the S.E.C. Tournament, not only did they find their identity, but they started to feel a sense of destiny. The team started to peak heading into the N.C.A.A. Tournament. But when Kentucky got a fourth seed, Coach Calipari was not happy.

The Cats had a tough bracket. The hardest game in more ways than one was against Princeton, when Darius Miller led Kentucky to victory, 59-57. Next, they beat West Virginia and then, Ohio State. The media now had Kentucky winning it all. Next came North Carolina, which had beaten the Wildcats 75-73 early in the season. But Big Blue was a different team now, and won 76-69. 

After the games in New Jersey, Big Blue Nation was back on track.

“We are on our way to Houston for the Final Four,” Doron told me then. “We are totally excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent the University of Kentucky. This is the biggest game of my career, and it won’t be the last. Our families and fans are cheering right along with us. For many, it can be overwhelming, but I think when you are able to identify the magnitude of it all and just have fun with it, we’ll continue to win.”

However, eventual tournament champs Uconn edged Kentucky in the semifinals, 56-55.

“But the teamwork was there,” Doron said after the loss.

Doron had 13 points in 27 minutes, and was 3-of-5 from 3-point land.

“The game itself will always be an experience that will make me a better person in all aspects of life, because at the end of it, if you gave it your all on the court, that’s only the beginning in your life’s ‘full court,’ ” he said. “I want to thank my parents for always keeping me grounded and honest,” he added.

Doron’s honors for this amazing season included being named N.C.A.A. Sixth Man of the Year and S.E.C. Sixth Man of the year and also a member of the S.E.C. All-Freshman Team.

This week, Doron’s dad, Calvin, confirmed to me that Doron is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore year.

Although some wrongly refer to him as a Queens product, Doron was born and raised on the Lower East Side. From age 5 to 16, he lived in the Vladeck Houses on the L.E.S. He attended St. Joseph’s School in Greenwich Village from first through fourth grades, then transferred to nearby Our Lady of Pompeii School. His grandfather, his aunt and his uncle still live on the Lower East Side.

As for why these other articles always keep saying that Doron was raised in Queens, I really don’t have an answer for them. My daughter went to school with Doron. If you are in the ’hood ask anyone and you will get the true. This article will be the voice for the community.