This is a shameless pitch to the all-American voters: Jeff Lamp belongs on any all-Everything team. The guy wins. When it means the most, he is at his best. A wonderful shooter, a big guard with smarts, a certain first-round draft pick by the pros, Lamp is The Other Guy on the nation's undefeated No. 1 ranked team. If Ralph Sampson is No. 1, Jeff Lamp is 1-A. Here's why.
When victory is available for the heroic taking, Virginia puts the ball in Lamp's hands.
"Jeff seeks the ball," says his old high school coach, Richard Schmidt, an assistant at Virginia two years and now the Vanderbilt coach. "A lot of good players simply don't want any part of the ball in a last-shot situation. With Jeff, I couldn't even begin to count how many games he has won or tied in tight situations."
Fourteen times in 114 games across his four seasons as a Virginia star, Lamp has scored the tying or winning points in the last minute. In that time, Virginia has played only 38 games decided by six points or fewer -- which means Lamp almost always had the ball when Virginia most needed a bucket.
The highlights quickly: Last season he beat North Carolina State and Northeast Louisiana in the last seconds. He beat Cleamson with six straight points, the last two with four seconds left to play. This year Lamp scored eight of Virginia's last 10 points in a 66-64 victory at Maryland, making a 20-foot baseline jumper with 11 seconds left to tie it and then winning it four seconds later with a 10-footer. At North Carolina, he scored Virginia's last nine points in two minutes, forcing an overtime with a jumper at :08.
"We may overdo it at times," says Coach Terry Holland of this give-the-ball-to-Lamp stategey. "But you almost have to."
Being the last-shot guy is no big deal, Lamp says. He is a psych major and he has thought about this, he says. The way he tells it, practically anybody can do this hero work.
"Just because it is the end of a game doesn't mean I'm doing anything differently than I did the whole game," said Lamp. a 57 percent who takes an 18-point scoring average into Sunday's nationally televised game at Notre Dame (WRC-TV-4 at 2 p.m.).
"It's just that the stage is set then. I expect games to be close at the end, and all we do is run the same offense we've been running. That jump shot against Maryland, I've shot enough of those shots -- thousands and thousands of them -- that it's no big deal to hit a 01-footer.
Hmmmmmm. With 15,000 hostiles screaming, with the nation's longest winning streak at steak on the outcome of a 10-foot jumper, a lot of good players might throw the cursed thing 17 feet.
"The only thing that makes it a big deal is that there may be only two seconds to play," Lammp said. "Shooting it just becomes a habit. Mechanically, it's no big deal.
Marty Blake, who scouts college talent for the NBA, says Lamp shares with the great shooters the desire to get the last shot. Jerry West lived for his moment at the buzzer. "All the great shooters want the ball at the end," Blake said. "And Lamp is a great shooter."
"I don't like people saying I make clutch shots because I'm a great shooter," Lamp said. "I don't think that has a lot to do with it. A lot of it is concentration."
At 200 miles per hour, Jackie Stewart's reflexes quickened. In October, Reggie Jackson truly was the last man any pitcher wanted to see. Jack Nicklaus said that once he starts a swing he couldn't hear a gun go off at his back. "When I'm wired," said Hall of Fame bowler Billy Hardwick, "my world is a ball, a shiny lane and 10 pins. I don't see or hear anything else." Self-hypnosis here. Hardwick says he is wired, Jeff Lamp says he is concentrating. Same thing.
"A lot of it, too, has to do with it not being a life-and-death thing if I miss," Lamp said. "It's just a matter of winning or losing a single game. And if you are worried about losing or what will happen, then you'll probably miss it."
What Jeff Lamp is, of course, is an icy assassin. Even ih high school, this handsome kid with the floppy hair was called a barracuda. "What really sets Jeff apart is how mentally tough he is," Schmidt says. Lamp on Lamp: "I'm just naturally competitive. And that was fueled in high school by Coach Schmidt, who was very intense. His whole philosophy was doing all you can to be sure you win. Even if you're not as talented as the others . . ."
Wait a minute. Is Lamp now selling that silly idea? For years, everyone has said Jeff Lamp isn't all that talented. He is a half-step slow, they say. He can't jump. Can't play defense. They say he gets by by being tough and smart.
Balderdash. The guy is a player. You don't get those 10-footers at the end of a game by looking tough. You get them by losing a defender somhow. You do that with talent. You throw the thing in because you are a wired assassin who never misses from short range.
Q: Jeff, you don't expect me to buy the idea, you're not talented, do you?"
Lamp smiling: "No. If you put me against Clyde the Glide (Austin) in a 100-yard dash, I won't win. But there are a lot of diferent talents other than running and jumping. My talents are more subtle than a lot of the guys, like Albert King or Darrell Griffith. I think I'm a much better player now than I was two years ago. I'm bigger (6-foot-6, 193), I'm a better ballhandler, my defense has improved I'm probably smarter and I'm more versatile."
One thing more. About 200 crazies have camped out here on matresses and in sleeping bags for a week to get ACC tournament tickets. The truly demented brought along the very staff of life: "ACC-tion Basketball," a board game with dice and cards. You can replay, with statistical accuracy, the 1979-80 ACC season.
"Just lost to Clemson again," said senior Sam McConnell, sneering at the dice. "A month after this season ends, though, we can have new cards based on this season."
The thought warmed him. "And I'll have Jeff Lamp shooting the last shot every game."