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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Kayla Lambert’s numbers shine about as clearly as the six championship rings of her favorite basketball player, Michael Jordan.

But Lambert’s numbers are something even Jordan would be proud to call his own.

In her sophomore and junior seasons, she averaged an astounding 42.2 and 37.1 points a game and is within reach of becoming Montana’s first – girl or boy – 3,000-point scorer.

At the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis, though, she will not be one of the highest-profile athletes among the 80 high-school girls in attendance. She, instead, will be out to prove she belongs among America’s best players.

“There will probably be a lot of the top players down there,” said Lambert. “All I can do is go out and play my hardest.”

Record-setting careerLambert’s exploits are hard to ignore.

As a sophomore, she scored 65 points to set Montana’s single-game record, then broke the record again last season with a 66-point effort – her third career 60-point game.

Lambert is already Montana’s all-time leading girls scorer with 2,731 career points and needs just 56 points to surpass the state’s all-time leading boys scorer.

She was named Montana’s Gatorade Player of the Year, becoming only the second Montana junior to earn that honor in girls basketball. The first, Loree Payne, currently plays at the University of Washington.

Until this summer, though, college coaches weren’t exactly flocking to her doorstep.

“It’s picked up a lot, especially with the phone calls,” she said. “Coaches are calling now, talking 10 or 15 minutes, and the letters have increased, too. They want to know if I want to stay in state, mostly.”

Still, Lambert is not bothered by the lack of attention, which some attribute to her background as a member of the Dakota Sioux tribe.

American Indians account for about 1 percent of the total population in the United States but only about half that percentage compete in college athletics.

The perception is that it’s hard to recruit Indian athletes and harder to keep them in school, although one college coach said that image might be changing.

“Maybe in years past that was a big issue because there was a language barrier and that sort of thing,” New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said. “Most players travel now.”

Flanagan understands better than most because he coached high-school basketball on an Indiana reservation before taking the job with the Lobos.

Yet in seven years as coach of New Mexico, Flanagan has had just one American Indian play for him.

“Most are guards, and there just aren’t a lot of post players,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t recruit Native Americans, it’s just that they don’t fit sometimes. We would love to have a Native American play for us.”

Including one with as much potential as the 5-foot-8 Lambert, who Flanagan said he is recruiting.

Lambert’s background is an example of how much things are changing for American Indians.

She’s lived on six reservations because her parents’ jobs as educators have kept the family moving.

She will play in Indianapolis this week and also is scheduled for an event in Oregon City, Ore., and she insists that distance will not dictate which college she chooses.

But that does not mean the adjustment to college life will be an easy one.

“A lot of Native Americans come from the reservation, where it’s very close-knit, guarded and communal, to a life of complete independence,” said Notah Begay III, who spent part of his life living on a New Mexico Indian reservation before attending Stanford and becoming a professional golfer. “It’s hard to find others who look like you or that grew up in similar settings.”

Begay has taken time out of his busy golf schedule to meet with Lambert in an attempt to prepare her for what to expect.

“He’s told me about the press, mostly, and that sort of stuff,” she said. “I enjoyed spending time with him.”

Lambert, who helped Brockton to the State C Tournament semifinals last year, is also hoping her skills will give her the opportunity – college basketball – that she’s been preparing for since she first started shooting baskets at age 4.

Lambert’s list of finalists includes Montana, Montana State, Arizona, Washington, Iowa and New Mexico, a result of the attention her numbers have started to attract.

What college coaches want to see now is whether Lambert will shine against some of the nation’s top talents, a challenge Lambert said she’s ready to accept.

“I’m just focusing on going to college, playing ball showing everybody, especially back home that they can do it, too,” she said. “I want everybody back home to know that if I can do it, they can do it, too.”

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