Lamarr Kimble (above) played over 37 mpg last year on a St. Joe's squad wracked by injuries. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
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(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
Lamarr Kimble said his body began to break down at the end of last season.
After averaging just more than 18 minutes per game off the bench as a freshman, Kimble started the Hawks’ first 24 games in 2016-17, playing more than 37 minutes per contest.
In a loss to Massachusetts on Feb. 11, Kimble fractured his left foot and missed the last seven games of the Hawks’ season.
Unable to play in any pickup games this offseason, Kimble focused on improving his fitness. He started boxing, put a greater emphasis on weight training and conditioning and replaced at least one meal per day with a healthier option.
As a result, the junior guard is starting this year at 182 pounds --13 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season.
“I kind of took a mindset of going inside the weight room, doing the little things, get my body right this year,” Kimble said at practice last week. “I felt like last year it kind of broke down on me and that kind of led to the injury. This year, I wanted to make sure I came in fully physical enough to play.”
Kimble, who is listed at six feet tall, has always been a little more on the solidly-built side. But after training this offseason, he said he is feeling slimmer, faster and more athletic than ever before. Carrying less weight, he said his movements on the court are more efficient.
Hawks’ coach Phil Martelli noticed Kimble was a little bigger than the average guard during his recruit's senior season at Neumann-Goretti, but after Kimble had a productive first year for St. Joe’s on an NCAA Tournament team, Martelli wasn’t too worried about his point guard’s weight.
As he has watched Kimble in workouts this fall, Martelli has taken notice of the impact of his junior guard’s offseason training.
“He came here and he was productive on a really good team, so I didn’t over-process it,” Martelli said. “But I can see the difference now. He looks different.”
Part of the wear and tear on Kimble last season came from the injury to his backcourt mate, Shavar Newkirk.
A torn ACL cut short Shavar Newkirk's terrific junior season after just 12 games. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Newkirk was having a breakout season when he tore his ACL against George Washington 12 games into the 2016-17 campaign on Dec. 30, 2016. He was averaging more than 20 points per game on nearly 47 percent shooting at the time of the injury.
Kimble’s minutes jumped from 35.7 mpg to 39.1 mpg when Newkirk went down. The added responsibilities as the Hawks’ lone lead guard proved challenging.
“Having a solo point guard sometimes that duty of getting tired and making sure that you cut down on turnovers and things like that, it can take a toll on you,” he said.
Newkirk is still recovering from surgery to repair his knee, taking part in some drills in practices while wearing a brace but staying out of full-court, 5-on-5 action.
When Newkirk is ready to go, the Hawks will have the luxury of having two playmakers paired in the backcourt together.
Both Kimble and Newkirk are talented scorers and distributors. Kimble averaged 15.5 points and 4.5 assists per game last season, while Newkirk averaged 20.3 ppg and 3.5 apg.
“Having somebody else you can rely on to make plays, set you up, get you in position and also control the tempo of the game, that’s great to have,” Kimble said. “It’s hard for teams to guard with two point guards who both can come at you in different aspects of the game.”
If Newkirk is not ready to start the season, Martelli’s team will be prepared.
Last season, St. Joe’s had to adjust on the fly when Newkirk went down. The Hawks went 4-15 after his injury, and St. Joe’s went 1-7 after Kimble’s injury. Kimble, junior Chris Clover and sophomore Nick Robinson all averaged more than 20 minutes per game as underclassmen guards, with sophomore Charlie Brown also averaging over 30 mpg on the wing in his first collegiate season.
Martelli is grooming Robinson to play point in case Newkirk isn’t fully recovered by the start of the season. Robinson, a 6-6 guard out of Chicago, averaged 23.4 mpg as a freshman last season, scoring 5.2 ppg and tallying 1.9 apg.
“I’ve been trained to be a point guard my whole life,” Robinson said. “If (Newkirk) plays, or if he doesn’t, I know that I could handle the ball. It really wouldn’t affect me either way.”
In addition to a fresher Kimble and a more prepared Robinson, the Hawks also have 19 games playing without Newkirk from which to draw experience.
“I think we’re real prepared just knowing that we ended the year not playing with Shavar,” Kimble said. “But if he comes back, it’s definitely a benefit and a bonus as everybody knows and he’ll definitely make our team 10 times better.”