There was nothing about Louisville that should have screamed “perfect fit” to Fresh Kimble.
For starters, Kimble had never been outside of Philadelphia for longer than a couple of weeks at a time. The Philly native spent four seasons at Saint Joseph’s, and likely would have spent a fifth there had it not been for the surprising offseason firing of longtime head coach Phil Martelli.
The only thing connecting Kimble to Louisville was his experience playing AAU ball for Cardinal legend Pervis Ellison. Even so, when the opportunity to spend his final season of collegiate eligibility playing for a national title contender arose, Kimble pounced on it.
Nevermind that moving to Louisville would mean being more than a few miles away from his family and friends for the first time in his life. Nevermind that the only three-time captain in the history of St. Joe’s basketball would be joining up with one of the most experienced teams in the country, one with an already established leadership core. And nevermind that at U of L, a shoot first point guard who had been moved off the ball in his most recent season with the Hawks was going to be asked to be a pass-first facilitator for the first time in his playing career.
Even if the edges didn’t slide perfectly into place at first, Kimble is the type of kid who’s never going to stop twisting and turning until the piece fits.
The first time this was readily apparent was before the start of the second half on Dec. 28. Midway through a rivalry game that he had no experience with or prior attachment to, and before a half where he would not start out on the floor, it was Kimble in the middle of the Cardinal huddle smacking chests and getting his teammates fired up. His fearless play down the stretch would nearly lead his team all the way back to an upset of its arch-rival inside Rupp Arena.
From that point forward, Kimble’s role was established. He was back to being in the familiar position of vocal leader and key contributor. He would never be relied upon to shoulder as much of the offensive load as he did at Saint Joe’s, but if he needed to take a big shot in the waning moments of a close game, nobody was going to have a problem with that.
My favorite clip from No. 11 Louisville's 90-66 win over Syracuse tonight: Fresh Kimble (@freshkimble) forces a turnover, yells and goes over to Chris Mack for a chest bump. That man was hype. pic.twitter.com/o8ZN7LASPe— Tyler Greever (@Tyler__Greever) February 20, 2020
For the first time in his college career, Kimble is heading into March as one of the focal points of a team with a legitimate shot to be a top 4 seed and end its season in the Final Four. In these most crucial of games, Kimble won’t asked be asked to light anyone up with 25 points or hit seven threes and lead an outside avalanche. He’s going to be asked to be that same rock solid presence in the Cardinal lineup that he’s been for most of the season. He’s going to be asked to be point man on defense, the guy who knows where everyone is supposed to be and isn’t afraid to let them know it.
He’s also going to be asked to do more stuff like this when the March drama reaches its apex.
check out who the vocal leader is in the huddle when chris mack got the technical and it felt like things could be slipping away.— Chris Hatfield (@ChrisDHatfield) February 9, 2020
fresh kimble means a lot to this group. pic.twitter.com/6GmiTf9gex
Teams that don’t have or develop this presence, regardless of their level of talent, will always ... ALWAYS flop in March. Thank goodness that’s not a concern for Louisville.
For all their differences, there’s one thing that Saint Joseph’s Fresh Kimble and the 2015-19 Louisville Cardinals had in common: Neither had the chance to experience what life in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament is like. Seems like a good new experience for everyone to have together.
Thanks for taking a chance on us, Fresh.