Draft prospect Anthony Lamb: 'I know I can do a lot of what PJ Tucker does'

© BRIAN JENKINS/for the Free Press, Burlington Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Draft prospect Anthony Lamb: 'I know I can do a lot of what PJ Tucker does'

DunkWire

Draft prospect Anthony Lamb: 'I know I can do a lot of what PJ Tucker does'

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A two-time America East Conference Player of the Year, Anthony Lamb is a 6-foot-6 forward who ranked among the Top 5 in Vermont Catamounts’ history in points and blocks. The 22-year-old prospect spoke to HoopsHype about how he has prepared for the upcoming draft as well as some of his personal interests.

Note: This transcription has been very minorly edited for clarity.

I’m curious how you’ve been able to keep busy and focused during the quarantine.

Anthony Lamb: Yeah, I’ve actually been blessed. Coming back to Rochester, I’ve been able to get access to a gym. So I’ve been working out by myself and keeping up with things and develop my game still over this long period of quarantine. But the first part was definitely tough. I was up in Vermont, stuck up there. There was nowhere to really go and just like where everybody else is, just trying to get the best out of it. Do what you can. It was definitely tough at first but I’m getting through it.

Your team was coming off big wins in your conference tournament when the season suddenly ended. How have you been able to reconcile with everything, just knowing that the season came to an end right when things were really picking up?

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AL: Yeah, it was definitely tough, especially at first. I think it had a lot of my teammates really hard, especially the seniors. But everybody is doing better now. We bonded together through that and pushing past all that sadness of not being able to play and just appreciating the gifts we’ve been given. Because not everybody else gets to finish on top of our conference the way we did.

What do you think the ceiling would have looked like for Vermont in the NCAA Tournament?

AL: I think we could have gone really far, we had a very talented team. We were clicking at the right spots and all our guys are stepping up, not just me. We were firing on all cylinders, our role players were hitting, our main scorers were getting in the groove. I think we would have made a big run in the tournament.

Seniors typically have opportunities like the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, which was canceled this year. How do you think you would have done in that environment?

AL: That’s the hard part for me because it’s something I can’t really control. Hopefully, my resume is good enough and teams can see all the work I’ve put in so far to make Vermont a winning program. We had a lot of success and I know how to win. I know how to play as a team and that’s really all that matters to me. If we had workouts, I know I could have competed at the highest level because the competition is where I shine most. I think playing in Portsmouth would have been a really fun and cool experience that not many people get to do. I’m bummed I missed out on it. But I’m looking to make the most of whatever opportunities I do have.

Do you think seniors might have a bit of an advantage over some of the younger players in this draft class just because there is so much more game film on them? 

AL: Well, I hope it is an advantage for us. I know personally, I’ve had a lot of experience. I’ve won a lot of games. I know younger guys can’t say that as much. I’ve experienced it already. I’m ready. I’m ready to go. You can say whatever you want to about me being older. Whatever. I’m 22 years old. I’m ready to win games, I’m ready to make an impact right away. My experience at Vermont and my track record shows that. I know whatever team picks me or gives me an opportunity will see my work ethic. It will compromise for whatever age difference. I’ll make it up with hard work and effort.

When you look back at your four years in college, what are some of your favorite memories? 

AL: I would say most of them are probably around like the bus trips and stuff with the team. Those are my favorite times, just being able to clown around with the guys at the back of the bus and get to know everybody and become friends with those guys. You battle in so many games on the court, but really, at the end of the day, you’re just kids, you’re just kids going through all this stuff, learning and growing and becoming friends along the way. All those times I spoke with my guys, my teammates, are things I will never forget.

How would you describe your game to someone who has not had a chance to watch you play?

AL: That’s a good question. I think the biggest thing that I say is that I want to play the game the right way. I think that’s something that hopefully people can see when I’m playing basketball. I’m trying to make the right plays. I’m about winning and doing whatever that is needed on the court. That is what I’m trying to do. So I think that shows in different assets as far as maybe my scoring or my rebounding or trying to make the right pass. But hopefully, anybody that watched my games or tries to break down my film says that he is about winning and that is what he wants to do.

What are some of the things that you were able to gain from the experience playing multiple positions while in college?

AL: Our system is more guard-based. Even though I played the four and the five, I was still able to do a lot of the guard stuff and be able to handle the ball and shoot and spread the floor just based on the system. So I am grateful that I had the opportunity I’m very happy that I chose Vermont for that. I’m grateful for them allowing me to showcase some of my talents and give me that chance to not only help them win games but also develop my own game along the way. That’s what I’ve been able to do by play multiple positions.

You were almost always among the Top 5 for block percentage in your conference. Tell me a little bit about your rim protection and your ability to be an elite defender.

AL: I have a pretty good feel for it. A lot of it just comes naturally, just being in my right spot, knowing our defensive scheme, and coming over to help at the right time. Especially not being as tall, people don’t expect me to come for those blocks, but I have a really good reach. I know I can catch a lot of things that people don’t expect me to catch. I’ve used that to my advantage and catch people off guard. I’m positionally strong in the way I carry myself. I get a lot of things that not a lot of people think I can. Along with that, my timing helps me out a lot.

You are 6-foot-6 but your defensive rebound percentage is really good. How do you think that will translate to the next level?

AL: I could use that to my advantage and make a mark in that way. I am not only able to guard people but also get it off the glass and crash the boards. That’s where I started off, even before I started being able to score. I would just go out there and try to rebound and get as many as I can. A lot of the work shows up in my timing for blocks and my rebounding. I have a good court awareness and I can use that to my advantage playing against bigger, more athletic people.

Your isolation-based game and driving skills are both really impressive. How did you become such an effective finisher on these possessions? 

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AL: A lot of it was just based on our system. It’s about finding the best shots for us and trying to get good reps and attacking towards the rim. So I know coach [John] Becker is really big on finishing at the rim. He’d much rather have me go and try to score at the rim than take a contested three-pointer. So that is something that tried to focus on. It helped me out working on that. I got pretty good at it through my time at Vermont. So it’s just something that I’ve worked on developing. Because people have helped so much on me, when I catch the ball in isolation, I had to learn how to drive and rip both strong and aggressively in order to get to my spots early to beat the help defender before they came.

Your usage rate was typically above 30 percent, which is pretty high for your position. I’d love to hear you describe your skills both on-ball and off-ball at the next level. 

AL: A lot of the stuff that I’ve done on-ball was out of pick and roll or just isolation plays built in our system. I’ve learned and capitalized on the way we play and taking advantage of space. I saw a lot of double-teams and things like that. I had to learn how to play through those and make the right plays instead of taking the tougher shots, even when I know I can still make them. But it is better to make the right plays, get teammates involved. I learned that later in my collegiate career, and it helped us and took us to the next level over my last few years at Vermont. The biggest thing I can show as far as on-ball is just being able to create off the dribble. Use my jab series, using deception, using little things I’ve picked up along the way to create advantages. I’m really strong. I don’t know if everybody knows that. But I’m a very strong player and I use that to create space whenever I need to.

As far as off-ball, I know I’ve been working a lot of my shot. My numbers dipped this year but I’m working really hard to consistently do it. I know I can shoot better than what I’ve shown. So I’m developing that through reps, which will allow me to space the floor and be able to back cut and hit the spots on the wings. I’ve learned a lot about how to play off the perimeter. Even though I didn’t have to do that much in Vermont, I’ve learned to develop that in the meantime while I’ve been playing multiple positions.

One thing that is really encouraging is you have a very high free throw percentage, which suggests your shooting form may be better than your three-point percentage suggests.

AL: It is something I’ve worked on for a long time. They are free points and so they are something that we pride ourselves on, just being able to finish plays. You are cheating yourself if you’re not working on your free throws and consistently working on that. That is somewhere where my form shows. I’m still working on the consistency, spreading the floor and spacing out to the 3-point line to get those numbers up. But I know that my form is there. I know it’s just based on reps that I can shoot a lot better. It definitely shows at the free-throw line. I know I have a lot of work to do. But it’s something that I know I can always make free throws if I need to down the stretch.

You finished about as many possessions as a ball-handler and pick and roll sets as you did being a roll man. What’s the advantage that you have being somebody that can finish both ways in this offense?

AL: I can do multiple things. I can be used in any facet that is needed by a team. That is something that I know has become very valuable in positionless basketball, just being able to finish plays and also get people open. I think that is something that I can use not only to my advantage to give me good shots but also to help some of the better players get open. I know I am a threat without the ball as well. So playing with the ball, I can create for others. Without the ball, I can create advantages for people that can score and take a little bit of pressure off of them due to my ability to do both.

Considering how efficient you were in the PnR, could you see yourself as a secondary ball-handler at the next level?

AL: I definitely could and that’s something that I’m continuing to develop. I wouldn’t say that is the strongest part of my game yet. But I know that’s something that I can use and rely on whenever I need it. It is not my best skill but I know that it can translate to the next level and carry over as I continue to progress my game.

That leads me to this: What, then, would you say your best skill is?

AL: I would say it is just being able to get to my spots. It’s not even just to score for myself but being able to draw help and make people have to guard me. That is something that I’ve had to develop over the years. So if you don’t bring your double team, I know I can score over my man. But that just creates advantages for the other people on our court. So anytime that they double team or they help too much, I know I can make the right play at the right time. If you don’t help enough then I know I can get to my spots and get to a spot where I feel comfortable scoring and I’m strong enough to finish and make that shot.

Overall, I’m curious about what you see your role being on the court at the next level?

AL: I can have an immediate effect, guarding and being someone that could do whatever you need me to do on the court with my toughness and my grit. I know I can space the floor.  I know everybody needs somebody that can guard, everybody needs somebody that can space the floor. So that’s the immediate impact I can give to any team that picks me or gives me the chance. Then as I develop, I think it’s going to depend on who I’m playing with and playing off of the people I’m with. I know it’s important to be moldable and malleable. So whatever is needed on me, I can continue to develop and get better as I go. That is something I’m leaning on and trusting in. But it is mostly about winning. So whatever I need to do and develop and get better at in order to stay in and win games, that is what I’m going to do. I need to do is whatever comes. I’ll be ready for it.

Are there any players that you’ve watched who you think might resemble your game when you’re watching film or watching the NBA?

AL: I’ve heard some comparisons. I’ve watched a lot of film in order to see if those comparisons true. But for PJ Tucker, I know I can do a lot of what he does. People tell me he plays really strong, he makes three-pointers, he spreads the floor with space. He is able to guard one through five. That is something I know I can do. That is why I know that being able to bring that to a team right away would be able to help and create a positive impact on whatever team I go to in the future.

PJ Tucker is becoming a very popular comparison for prospects. How do you think that Houston playing him at the five has helped prospects like you give yourselves a more clear idea of a potential future in the NBA? 

AL: With him playing there and showing that it works and he has the ability to positively impact the game, being able to space the floor playing what is truly positionless basketball. It started to give me a stand to propel myself off. I know I can capitalize on it once I get there. But it’s having that belief, teams believing that I can actually do it, that is how to get your foot in the door. I know once I get my foot in the door, it’s all about my work and what I do and how I produce. That is something I’m willing to do and I’m very grateful that they’ve been able to show the blueprint for that before. So it doesn’t make it as hard for me to get into the door hopefully.

What are your thoughts on using the G League as a potential opportunity to improve your game?

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AL: I look at the G League as an opportunity to get better. So if that is where I start my journey and that is how whatever organization picks me up chooses to start me, I’m more than happy. I’m more than willing to learn whatever I need to in the G League and earn my place and earn my spot on the roster. That is something that I’m looking forward to, there is always an opportunity to play and that is always something great. I’m happy and blessed to be able to play on any team that I get picked up by. But it’s definitely something I would use to propel myself to help make the transition a little bit smoother once I get to on that NBA roster.

When you’re talking to NBA teams during interviews, what’s something that you really want them to come away thinking when they talk to you?

AL: I think it’s that I’m ready. I’m ready to show up every day. I’m coming consistently. I’m coming strong. I want to make an impact. I want to help in whatever way I can to get better and win games. That’s the biggest thing for me. I want to be able to impact my team positively and bring something to the table with everything. It’s been one of my dreams to get to this spot and make it to the NBA and continue to develop that way. So any team that is blessed enough to give me the opportunity, I want to give everything I can to them.

How would you describe yourself off the court? What are some of the things that you like? How would you describe your personality?

AL: I watch anime. I don’t know if you ever watch anime or anything like that. But that’s one of my hobbies. I like playing games. I’m competitive. So any type of ping pong, yard games, I love playing stuff like that, just being able to compete in something that is fun and light-hearted, is something I like to do. I’m talkative but also can be to myself, which I think is a good combination. I know how to be around people but also enjoy my personal challenges, being able to reflect and think about the things that go on in my life and learn more about myself. That is really important to me, trying to further my development as a person not just as a basketball player.

What are some of your favorite anime shows that you have watched?

AL: I watch a lot of anime shows. One of my favorites is My Hero Academia. I watched Attack on Titan recently. My friend told me that he checked that out and he hated it. I was shocked.

Would you ever want to get involved in producing an anime show?

AL: Yeah, I’ve actually thought about that. It compelled me to buy a how-to-draw-anime book to mess around with. It’s really interesting to me because it is something that I actually spent a lot of time watching. I think the storylines and the way they develop their characters is something unique and something that’s developing in America. But they do such a great job through the animations and being able to display wherever they want through the graphics, which is something that is really cool to me. I think you can teach a lot of lessons through that but also have great content that everybody can love, no matter what you look like or how old you are.

That’s very cool. How did you originally get interested in anime?

AL: When I was younger, I used to watch Adult Swim and they had Naruto and Dragonball Z. Then in high school, I found websites that I was able to watch it on and find more content. Once in college, you have a lot more free time. So I was able to begin watching more and fell in love with it.

You may have even more free time when you are in the NBA than when you were in college. What are some things you would want to do to keep busy and productive?

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AL: Something that I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t had much time is to learn how to play an instrument. I think that’s something really cool and something challenging. I enjoy doing new things and challenging things that nobody else really will know about me but I’ll be able to see myself and see the progress when I see the end product. Just being able to do new things and find new things to challenge myself with my own personal time is something I’m going to take a lot of pride in.

What what are some instruments that you think would be cool to take up? 

AL: I would definitely choose to learn how to play the piano. I think that’s a big one. I want to learn how to play that. I think learning how to play the guitar would be cool. I don’t know, my friend plays drums and he is really good at it. I don’t know if I would want to mess with him in that. But I might try drumming a little bit, too.

Who are some of your favorite musicians to listen to?

AL: My favorite is J. Cole. He’s definitely my favorite artist, but I listen to all types. My mom is experienced and has shown me a lot of different music in my time. I don’t really have anything I dislike. I can vibe with anything as long as it sounds good, then I can appreciate it.

What do you like about Cole? Dreamville is an awesome record label.

AL: He has a lot of similarities to me and how I’ve grown up. I like the way he tells stories and displays a positive message while also teaching people at the same time. So it’s not you’re not just listening. Everything he says has a message behind it and it’s important to learn from it and. I can still listen to it and bump to it but I can also take something away to apply to my own life after I’m done listening and reflecting on it. I’ve been listening to “For Whom The Bells Toll” and “Change” from 4 Your Eyez Only (2016). Sideline Story (2011) is one of my favorites, ever. I pick that up and listen to it all of the time based on my mood and what I need to hear.

Cole says he is 6-foot-4. How would he do in a one-on-one game against Anthony Lamb?

AL: [Laughs] If I couldn’t beat J. Cole, I don’t think we should be talking about my NBA aspirations. I would definitely say I would win.  Anybody could get a bucket, I guess. But I would do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’d just have to come out with the win. That is the most important part.

Anything else you think would be good to add for a story like this one?

AL: As far as I’m expressing to other people, it’s big to try to find out and understand more about yourself. Everybody goes through different things and struggles and pushes through a lot of things in life. But just being able to take the time and find out who you are and be able to separate yourself from all the expectations of the world or things like that is something that I’ve taken a lot of time to learn about myself. It’s helped me along the way. It’s made life a lot easier. It’s something I think everybody should take the time to do. Just knowing that everybody goes through things, everybody struggles. But it is important that you find love for yourself in the situation that you are in. Love the grind. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am in loving everything I do and continue to love the life that I have and the moments each day.

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