Controversy brews at the University of Virginia. The campus is divided.

One half says Jeff Lamp has teeth. The other half says Jeff Lamp's teeth are a rumor.

No one knows for sure. The cornerstone of Virginia's improving basketball program hardly ever smiles. Doesn't talk much either.

It causes people to wonder what thoughts are spinning from the wheels under the flying Buster Brown haircut.

"It probably doesn't look like I have a good time out there," said Lamp, the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading scorer with 22.8 points a game. "But I have a great time.

"I can't play well smiling and laughing. It's not that kind of enjoyment. It goes deeper. It's more personal, something I have to fulfill inside me."

Serious is a good word to describe Lamp. "The most serious player I've ever seen," a school official said.

Lamp has heard another word. Boring. Not a boring player. Not with those velvet baseline jumpers. But a boring person. No hand slaps. No gold chains. Nothing controversial, funny, cute or oddballish to say.

"I'm probably not as serious as I come across," Lamp said. "At least I hope not. I'd be boring if I was.

"I'm only serious when I play basketball, and when I'm talking about it. I suppose there is an image you have to project, if not for yourself or your teammates, then for your fans."

This is not to say that the portrait Lamp offers is out of focus. He is serious.

He is a basketball perfectionist, seldom satisfied with his play, giving an appearance of unhappiness. He is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes who finds himself "caught between a campus social life that maybe I'm not real comfortable with, and the other extreme of sitting home and doing nothing."

Last year as a freshman, Lamp led his team with a 17.3 scoring average, was second in assists and was largely responsible for Virginia's second 20-win season in history. The 6-foot-6 guard-forward describes this as "the biggest disappointment I've ever had," because ankle problems made his play tail off at the end of the year.

This year, with one regular-season game left Saturday against Maryland, Lamp has pronounced himself "fairly happy" with his play.

"I'm probably doing more things. I've been trying to become a more all-around ballplayer," Lamp said. "Leading the ACC in scoring was not one of my goals, but since it started out that way, I've tried to maintain it.

"I'm basically called on to do a lot of scoring for Virginia, but it's not like I'm out there trying to score points to be the leading scorer in the ACC."

In his two seasons at Virginia, Lamp has been called for one technical foul, punishment for reacting to a call.

Lamp looked at the official and said, "Bull."

That's it. No unprintable second syllable.Just "Bull." But it was what his face said that drew the technical.

"I guess it's not what you say, but how you say it," Lamp said.

Some front-row viewers are on to Lamp. This was pointed out to him one day as he sat in the back row of one of the airplanes Virginia charters for its trips.

Lamp was recounting to a friend an incident last year when North Carolina Coach Dean Smith allegedly poked Virginia player Marc Iavaroni in the stomach at halftime and called him a dirty player. (Smith denies saying it.)

Iavaroni played poorly in the second half and Virginia lost. Lamp wondered aloud why Smith never said anything to him (Lamp).

"What would you do if Dean Smith said that to you?" the listener asked.

"I'd score five straight baskets, and then just stare at him -- look him right in the eyes," Lamp said.

It is difficult to figure out whether Lamp likes or does not like the spotlight. A star player at Ballard High School in Louisville, Lamp spurned the attentions of Louisville and Kentucky, mostly because of the big-time atmosphere. For this, he was booed at a high school all-star game.

"You've heard of a standing ovation?" Lamp said. "I got a standing boo ovation. That hurt me."

Even his friends are trying to figure him out. High school and college teammate Terry Gates said, "Ever since I've known Jeff, he's been kind of a loner. In high school, I'm not even sure he had a girlfriend. He could have this school (Virginia) by the seat of the pants. But all he ever wanted to do was play basketball."

No one really understands why Lamp chose Virginia. He had made a verbal commitment to Indiana, but he was scared off when five players quit the team.

He visited here because high school teammate Lee Raker was planning to attend Virginia and because Richard Schmidt, Lamp's high school coach, was talking to the school about a job he eventually got after Lamp signed.

"Basically, what happened is I fell in love with the place," said Lamp, who didn't even see a game during his visit. "Everyone seemed interested in me as a person, not just a basketball player. And I thought it would be exciting to help build a national power."

Coach Terry Holland told the Roanoke Times, "I don't know that I've signed a more prominent player. And because we have Jeff, other top players will take a look at our program now. With a kid who wants to play in the pros, it's given us a certain degree of credibility."

Virginia has since been called a one-man team, the one man being Lamp, whose serious countenance was displayed in full color, wearing a tuxedo, in Sports Illustrated's "Class of Their Class" story about the nation's 10 super sophomores.

Virginia fights that "one-man show" label, which probably does overstate Lamp's importance. Lamp does have some defensive liabilities, being too slow for quick guards and too small for beefy forwards.

"I'm not a great natural athlete by any means," Lamp said. "I'm not really big or strong or quick. I guess I just have a desire to be good. I just try to do things right."