Thais a different team with Lamb

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Philippine national men’s basketball coach Jong Uichico said Thai-American Tyler Lamb will provide a new look to the Thailand squad that Gilas will face in their SEA Games opener at the MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur tonight.  The 6-5 Lamb, 26, saw action for UCLA and Long Beach State, both US Division I schools, before playing a year in the Thai league and two seasons in the ABL.

In a message from K. L. yesterday, Uichico confirmed that Lamb is in Thailand’s lineup. On whether Lamb will play as a naturalized import or a local, SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said the SEA Games Organizing Committee will abide by FIBA eligibility rules since the basketball event is administered by FIBA officials. Under FIBA rules, Lamb is considered a naturalized import unless he was issued a Thai passport before turning 16.

“Thailand will be a completely different team with Lamb,” said Uichico. “Lamb’s a perimeter guy who can play one, two and three. He’s not a post-up player.” Uichico said Thailand’s former national coach Tim Lewis, a TNT KaTropa consultant, has shared scouting tips on the players he’s worked with but isn’t with Gilas in K. L. Lewis was fired after the recent SEABA Cup and replaced by American Doug Marty. Missing for Thailand in the SEA Games is 6-7 Thai-Irish Wutipong Dasom who hit 40 points against Myanmar in the SEABA Cup. The SEABA Cup’s second leading scorer Chitchai Ananti will be in uniform for the Thais.

In the SEABA Cup last May, the Philippines crushed Thailand, 108-53. But only Troy Rosario is in the SEA Games roster from the players who swept the Manila tournament. In contrast, seven players were retained by Thailand for K.L. – Ananti, Chanachon and Patiphan Khalan, Kannut Samerjai, Teerawat Chantachon, Sukhdave Ghogar and Nattakam Muangboon.

Lamb’s mother Cherry is full Thai and his grandmother still lives in Thailand. His father Terry is American. He was born in West Covina, California. Lamb has survived two arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee and attended Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California, the same high school that produced NBA players D. J. Strawberry, LeRon Ellis and Travis and David Wear and PBA legend Vince Hizon. In 2009-10, Lamb led Mater Dei to a 32-2 record, averaging 18.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals.

Nicknamed “Lambo,” he played two full seasons at UCLA, averaging 2.6 points and 12.2 minutes in 34 games as a freshman in 2010-11 and 9.1 points in 33 games, including 32 starts, as a sophomore in 2011-12. In the Bruins’ first game in the 2012-13 season, Lamb shot four points in 14 minutes against Indiana State. Then, he sat out the next four contests with a swollen knee. Suddenly, it was announced that Lamb would leave UCLA to transfer to another school which turned out to be Long Beach State.  The speculation was Lamb opted out of UCLA because of lack of playing time competing with Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad. In 2013-14, Lamb averaged 15.7 points in 21 games for the 49ers varsity and in his final year of collegiate eligibility the next season, hit at an 8.3 clip in 31 outings.

Andy Friedlander, writing in the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, described Lamb as “a strong, athletic wing who can score at the basket or from the three-point line…take the ball to the basket and score through contact (and is) a tough defender who uses his athleticism to disrupt opposing offenses.”  Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said Lamb is “a great finisher around the basket, a good defender…he’s just strong, he’s a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) player, there’s no question about that.”

Lamb, whose favorite players are James Harden and Carmelo Anthony, was on the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions squad that won the ABL title this past season. He averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 31.3 minutes, shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc, 46.7 percent from two-point range and 72.9 percent from the line. He fired at least 20 points in 16 of 25 games.

At presstime,  Uichico said he was still not aware of who’s in Indonesia’s roster. “They’re in the other bracket so we won’t worry about them until later,” he said. “I heard their naturalized import (Jamarr Johnson) won’t be around. From what we know, the only other naturalized imports available for Indonesia are Anthony Hargrove (who played for FEU) and (Fil-Indonesian) Ebrahim Lopez (who played for UE).” Indonesia will likely be led by 38-year-old point guard Mario Wuysang, Indonesian-American Akri Wisnu, 6-7 Christian Setipu and 6-3 Sandy Kurniawan.

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