Lamarr Kimble couldn’t have asked for a better freshman year. The 2015-16 Hawks were one of the best teams in program history, finishing with a 28-8 record, an Atlantic 10 championship, and their first NCAA Tournament win since 2004. Kimble, a 6-foot point guard from Philadelphia, played in all 36 games, and averaged 6.0 points and 2.5 assists in 18.1 minutes per game off the bench en route to an A-10 All-Rookie Team selection.
“That [season] was amazing,” Kimble said. “One, to be blessed to come into that team, and, two, to be a part of it. We had a lot of great moments, and I will never forget that year, especially it being my freshman year.”
As with any collegiate team, there was player turnover. With the loss of key players like DeAndre' Bembry, Isaiah Miles, and Aaron Brown, Kimble found himself as one of the most experienced players on the Hawks’ 2016-17 roster.
With that in mind, Kimble pushed himself in his summer workouts, particularly focusing on improving his ball handling and shooting. His teammates voted Kimble a team tri-captain, marking only the third time in program history a sophomore served in the role.
“The most difficult thing was being a leader on the floor and off the floor,” Kimble said. “Whatever I say, I have to also be accountable while I’m on the floor.”
Kimble and the rest of the team faced a host of problems in the 2016-17 season, though. Pierfrancessco Oliva was sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury. James Demery missed 10 early-season games with a stress fracture in his foot. Lorenzo Edwards played in one game before shoulder surgery cut his season short. A torn ACL put Shavar Newkirk out of action after 12 games.
Then the injury bug bit Kimble.
In a home game against Massachusetts on February 11, Kimble felt something wrong after a drive to the basket in the second half.
“Usually in basketball, you get twisted ankles or somebody steps on your foot, so you feel those kind of aches and you just get through it as the game moves,” Kimble said. “I started trying to run and push off, and I could really feel that. It was a really sharp pain in my foot, and it wasn’t going away, so that’s when I knew that it had to be more than just a twist.”
The next day, x-rays confirmed Kimble fractured the fifth metatarsal of his left foot. The fracture required surgery, ending his season.
Kimble was enjoying a stellar season before the injury, averaging 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in 37.4 minutes. He also scored in double digits in 20 of 24 games. The injury was a tough blow for Kimble, the team, and fans.
“My mental state definitely was down, but my teammates helped me out, keeping my spirits high,” Kimble said. “Being on the sidelines cheering for them, making sure they were playing to the best of their abilities, sending text messages showing my support and they did the same for me – that made the transition easier.”
Kimble spent much of his summer rebuilding the balance and strength he had lost in his leg. He felt that his injury had occurred because his body was fatigued, so he lost 10 pounds and devoted himself to working out in the weight room. A few weeks after the fall semester began, Kimble was cleared to return to the court.
Practices were initially limited for Kimble, but the 2017-18 season seemed promising. He was again chosen as team captain, and was named a Preseason All-Atlantic 10 Third Team selection. Like the rest of the team, Kimble’s primary goal was to win the A-10 championship and once again be a part of “March Madness.”
The season opener was exactly nine months after the game that ended Kimble’s sophomore season, and the games had a few eerie similarities. Kimble scored in double digits and the Hawks lost by double digits in both games. The parallels didn’t end there.
“I went to the basket one play and went to go lay the ball up and I got fouled,” Kimble said. “I stopped, and my foot kind of just tweaked… I knew that would probably be my last game, so I tried to gut it out.”
It was the fifth metatarsal of his left foot again. Another fracture that required season-ending surgery.
Kimble isn’t frustrated with the repeat injury, though.
“It’s kind of a blessing that I had the same injury instead of another injury because this allows me to work on things I know I need to work on,” Kimble said. “[The recovery] has been great. I’m doing the same things [as last time], like working on my weight.”
The surgery Kimble underwent requires he stay off his foot for six weeks; he expects he’ll be in a boot in March. From there, he’ll be able to start rehabbing and then transition to getting back on the court. Barring any setbacks, Kimble should be cleared to play before the summer.
Despite being unable to put weight on his foot, Kimble gets a fair amount of exercising in most days.
“Hawk Hill’s a pretty big campus, so I’ll be having a work out getting to class,” Kimble said with a laugh.
Kimble missed a minimal amount of time in classes following his injury, and hasn’t let it affect his academic performance.
Similarly, Kimble doesn’t let his injury impact his responsibilities as team captain. He plays a crucial role in the team’s development, watching plays and offering insight on how to improve offensively and defensively.
“My goal is definitely to get the best out of every player,” Kimble said. “I know the capabilities of every guy on this team. Every player brings something tremendous to each play, each possession. I want to make sure that everybody remembers that there’s a purpose out there for each player.”
Kimble applies the same principle to himself. In a few months, he’ll be practicing on the court again, ready to come back better than ever.
But this season, his purpose is observing from the sidelines and helping each teammate be the best he can be.