The play happened in an instant.
The ball clanked off the rim and bounced up into the air. The Austin Peay defenders turned and boxed out to seal the paint and secure the rebound.
But long arms reached past the defense. Hands big enough to palm the ball tipped it into the air twice before snatching it away.
This was one of the seven offensive rebounds TCU forward Eddie Lampkin claimed in the game, setting his career-high.
Once he had control of the ball on that play, the 6’11”, 270-pounder’s attempt to post up was met with a double team.
In that moment, Lampkin said, for him, time slowed: He instinctively faded away from the goal and threw up a wild shot while falling towards his own bench.
“I remember, it was crazy, because I fell, and the ball was still dribbling.”
“But when I was falling, I was falling slow.”
“I was looking at it, then it fell.”
Lampkin flipped from his back to his stomach to stand up, and eight of his teammates swarmed him, lifting him up as they celebrated.
Schollmaier Arena was in a pandemonium, and one word arose from the cheers of the thousands of students and fans in the crowd.
In a 68-51 win over the Governors, Lampkin went on to finish that day with a career-high 12 points and 12 rebounds, recording his first career double double.
More importantly, the electric play and invigorating response from the crowd were a sign of the unmatched passion and energy that Lampkin would bring TCU basketball.
The come up
Four months later, Lampkin has become the fuel for the fire that TCU basketball has been this season, putting together the biggest breakout season of any player in the Big 12.
During the Frogs’ run to their first March Madness appearance in four years, the forward increased his points per game from 0.5 to 6.9. His rebounds per game went from under one (0.9) to second on the team (6.0). He also shoots a team-best 59% from the field.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Lampkin averages 2.9 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks second in the Big 12 and has propelled TCU to a conference-high 12.97 rebounds per game.
With 90 total offensive rebounds this year, the true freshman (due to COVID-19 eligibility) ranks 8th all-time in TCU history for offensive rebounds in a season, with only 10 separating him from 4th.
What stands out most about Lampkin, though, is his presence and energy on the court. Consistently the most animated player in games, his persona of unmatched confidence has captivated Frog fans.
“He really feels their [the students] energy and likes to be around them,” athletic director Jeremiah Donati said. “Some of his best friends look nothing like him, so he’s just kind of a breathe of fresh air.”
While he’s always been known as an energy source, Lampkin said he asks his teammates almost every day, “Did you think I was good?”
Several of them, including Texas A&M-transfer Emanuel Miller, admitted that they were surprised by the forward’s come up.
“Me and Eman [Miller] had a conversation the other day. I was like, ‘Bro be honest with me. Did you think I was going to play this year?’ Lampkin said. “He was like, ‘Nah, bro.’”
None of that matters to Lampkin, though. He’s always known he was ready for this level.
(Foot)ball is life
Well before he was making wild plays on the court and crowds were chanting his name, Lampkin never even wanted to play basketball.
His older brother, Du’Vante, was a star on the football field, so that is where Lampkin’s love for sports began, playing tight end and defensive end in his hometown of Houston.
Du’Vante played defensive tackle at Oklahoma, and he was later signed as an undrafted free agent to the Tennessee Titans. Today, he plays for the Massachusetts Pirates of the National Arena League.
When he was in 4th grade, though, Lampkin was at a choir recital, and a coach for the Southlake Defenders, a local AAU team, saw the size of his hands and recruited him to play.
Eventually cutting football entirely when he entered high school because of his AAU travel schedule, Lampkin will still tell you that football is his main love.
“Right now, still to this day, if I could go play football, if I could go to the NFL or NBA, I’d go to the NFL,” Lampkin said.
Lampkin continued to play with Southlake Hoops throughout elementary school and middle school, even facing now-teammate Mike Miles when the two were in fifth grade and Miles was playing for the Texas Titans.
People were not screaming, “Eddie!” back then, though. Lampkin said that his first few years in basketball saw him playing very little.
Finally, his 8th grade year, Lampkin caught some attention in the AAU scene, making him an exciting piece for the Houston Defenders, the high school team connected to Southlake Hoops.
Lampkin was also enrolled as a freshman at Morton Ranch High School, but he was forced to play on the JV team when confusion about whether or not he was staying at the school kept his grades from reaching varsity standard.
“I wasn’t even trying to play basketball, because I was like, ‘Why am I on JV if I should be on varsity?'” Lampkin said. “Our team wasn’t even that good. I was better than the dude starting in front of me.”
When referring to the summer following his freshman year, Lampkin said he “broke out” while playing with the Houston Defenders.
That led to attention from college programs, and TCU delivered him his first offer on Sept. 23, 2017. Lampkin cites the Frogs’ desire for him to the start as the main reason he chose to commit.
“They were my first offer. I already had a good relationship with them,” Lampkin said.
As time went on, Lampkin only improved, averaging a double-double in each of his final two seasons with Morton Ranch and earning a four-star rating from ESPN.
During the summer before his senior year, he went off at Steph Curry’s SC30 Camp, winning MVP honors of the all-star game there.
A few months later, he would commit to TCU on Sept. 20, 2019, and then had strong performance as the 2019 NBPA Top 100 camp in October.
“I got MVP at the Steph Curry camp. I did well at the Top 100 camp, so I was just like, ‘I can play basketball in college,’” Lampkin said.
Morton Ranch advanced to the 6A regional tournament for the first time in school history during Lampkin’s senior year, where they fell in the semifinals.
Following his graduation from high school, Lampkin headed to Fort Worth, where he roomed with Miles and former TCU forward Terren Frank.
At that point, Lampkin was 330 pounds and unlikely from seeing serious playing time for a while, but that did not stop him and his two roommates from setting a big time goal for their time with the Frogs.
“Me and Mike, T Frank, we always used to talk about: let’s go to the tournament,” Lampkin said.
Back on track
While Miles went on to be one of the top freshman in the Big 12 during their freshman season, Lampkin and Frank barely saw the floor.
Lampkin only played in 10 games total, and his season-high for minutes was only nine in the Frogs’ season-opening win over HBU.
The big man did win the hearts of fans over in that game, though, when he shocked the fans at Schollmaier Arena by picking up his defender during a jump ball situation.
Knowing what he was capable of, the lack of playing time motivated Lampkin, and he worked to improve both his game and his body for future success.
During the Big 12/SEC Challenge midway through the season, Lampkin played early in a game for the first time all season as TCU battled Missouri.
The true freshman scored the first points of his college career in that game, and gained some confidence through the solid defense he played on Tigers’ forward Jeremiah Tillmon.
“I got in against Missouri. The big man was good [Tillmon]. I think he scored like 20-something ,” Lampkin said. “I was playing good defense. I got my first bucket in that game. I was like, at least I have a chance to know where I’m at.”
The Frogs finished the season just 12-14 and saw their season end with a blowout loss to Kansas State in the opening game of the Big 12 tournament.
The day after that game, Lampkin headed to the gym, and that’s where he stayed multiple times a day until it was time for TCU to report to camp in the summer.
When that time came, the Frogs looked a lot different, and so did Lampkin. TCU had brought in 10 new faces, and their talented but inexperienced big man had lost over 50 pounds.
“Let’s change this program”
Though Frank chose to transfer in the offseason, Lampkin and Miles are still roommates, and their preseason goal remained the same.
“We came into this year. I was like, ‘Bro, Imma be able to play this year, hopefully start,'” Lampkin said. “Then, I started. Then, me and Mike, that was just our goal to get to the tournament. ‘Let’s change this program.’”
After head coach Jamie Dixon mixed around with lineups through TCU’s first five games of this season, Lampkin became the full-time starting center, and his break out performance against Austin Peay saw him playing 20-plus minutes for the first time in his career.
That was not the last time he popped off this season, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a home win over Oklahoma State in February with Miles sidelined because of a wrist injury.
He also extended his career high to 14 and then 16 as the season went on, with the now-career-high 16-point performance coming on an efficient 8-for-9 shooting night against Iowa State.
“Eddie’s [Lampkin] really grown into his role. He knows what we expect out of him, what the coaches expect out of him day in and day out,” teammate Chuck O’Bannon said. “It’s a pleasure to see these guys keep going.”
Limited by his body before, Lampkin feels like he has more control of his health than ever, leading to a greater ability to move quickly and block shots on defense. He currently weighs 265 pounds, his lowest weight since sophomore year of high school.
“The main thing for me was my defense. I’m not a big shot blocking person,” Lampkin said. “I’ve been blocking shots more, and then, I’ve been just competing and guarding the ball screen.”
The forward followed that up by saying, “You can’t have an off night on defense.”
Though Lampkin only averages 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per game on the season, he has come up big in those categories as of late. Over his last six games, he has seven steals and six blocks.
That defensive improvement was never more important for TCU than their 20-point comeback against No. 22 Texas in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, when he grabbed three steals and blocked two shots to go with 10 points and nine rebounds.
“Eddie [Lampkin] was good, like you said. That was huge,” Dixon said postgame. “He changed shots early but he also guarded on the perimeter with the ball screen defense.”
Man of the people
While his game has improved dramatically, Lampkin has made a name for himself both in Fort Worth and around the Big 12 for his personality both on and off the court.
In games, Lampkin routinely works to pump up his teammates and the crowd, even reminding his defenders that they are “too small” when he scores a physical bucket on them.
Even when his team was down by 20, Lampkin stayed positive and animated against Texas, and when the game was decided, he was seen calling for any non-Texas fans in the stand up and get loud.
This left an impression on fans outside of the Frog faithful.
Lampkin said teammate Chuck O’Bannon recently joked that the forward’s phone is probably “blowing up” after every game.
“He [O’Bannon] was like, ‘Bro, I know your phone be blowing up,'” Lampkin said. “I was like, ‘It do.’ It’s crazy how much love I get from fans not even at TCU.”
Even so, Lampkin always takes the time to respond to anyone who talks about him positively during the game on social media.
After TCU home games, Lampkin can be seen taking pictures and signing autographs for the dozens of fans who ask. He said it’s about building his “brand and relationships” with those that support him.
This fan interaction has produced more than a few nicknames for Lampkin, including “the Eddie Express,” “Steady Eddie,” “the Eddergizer,” and even “Chicken Eddie,” referring to the forward’s recent NIL deal with Chick Express.
Lampkin emphasized that he does not have a favorite of the nicknames, saying, “I like them all.”
Regardless of whether the game is home or away, Lampkin is typically running an Instagram live after TCU wins, giving fans an inside look at the Frogs’ celebration.
Perhaps the most memorable of those was when Lampkin went live in the middle of TCU’s court storm following their upset win over No. 6 Kansas.
As the fans were rushing the court, Lampkin turned to manager Zach Conner and asked for his phone.
“I had told him [Conner] to go get my phone because I Knew if we win this, I have to have my phone, because I have to go Instagram live to show everybody,” Lampkin said. “I’m the media person for the team.”
Lampkin’s energy is not just for the fans, though. It bleeds down into the whole team, and they give it right back to him.
Against Texas, Lampkin said that he continued to encourage Miles, even when the point guard was 0-for-7 from the field. The Frogs then returned the favor to their big man the following night when he went 3-for-8 against Kansas.
“The other night [against Kansas], I was off. Nobody even said nothing. They were just like, ‘Keep going,'” Lampkin said. “I was missing shots. I was mad at myself, but they were like, ‘Keep going.’”
Full steam ahead
Two years into his TCU career, Lampkin has already checked the box on the goal that he set with Miles the first time they stepped on campus.
For only the second time since 1998, the Frogs are headed to the Big Dance.
“We changed the program. They brought in good players, and we lead the team,” Lampkin said. “It feels good to be here with my brother [Miles]. When we were sitting down, I told him, ‘Bro, we really did it. This is what me and you talked about.'”
With TCU playing in the South Region, Lampkin said he is excited about potentially playing one seed Arizona and possibly matching up with Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21.1 points per game), who many consider the best big man in the country.
For the Frogs to get there, though, they will have to get through the First Round, and up first is a team Lampkin is very familiar with–Seton Hall.
“They were in my final five,” Lampkin said. “I haven’t lost to any of the teams that were in my final five, so I feel like I’m ready for them. We are ready for them.”
The other three teams in Lampkins’ top five were Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Western Kentucky. The Frogs beat the Aggies 68-64 earlier this year at Toyota Center in Lampkin’s home town of Houston.
TCU knows that making a run in the tournament will be anything but easy, but one thing they can count on is unmatched energy and drive from their leader–the Eddie Express.
“We’re going to win it all,” Lampkin said.