FRANKLIN FURNACE — Tayte Carver’s answer to coach Dirk Hollar’s question was a short one … but it spoke volumes.
After a win over Symmes Valley on Jan. 4, Hollar looked at his senior forward and said, “Tayte, were you waiting for Tanner to come back?” Carver simply replied, “Yeah, kinda.”
The two were, of course, talking about Tanner Kimbler returning to Green’s lineup after suffering a leg injury earlier in the season. Kimbler looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat, dropping 28 points alongside five rebounds and five assists.
The Bobcats entered that contest at 5-5. Currently, they’re 9-6 overall. You do the math.
“When he came back, Tayte Carver went from ‘Where’s Tayte at?’ to ‘Oh, there’s Tayte Carver,’” Hollar said. “That goes for the whole team. When your homeboy’s missing, it’s like, ‘Who do I give the ball to now?’ Having him back is awesome. He just does so much for us.”
During his absence, Kimbler didn’t discount his time off. While working to get back, the senior also realized how much he enjoyed the little things.
“When I walked back out and heard my name get announced, I was so thankful that the injury put me out a couple of games instead of the whole season,” Kimbler said. “I knew that it was my last season and I wanted to make my return one to remember.”
Kimbler’s injury took place during the second game of the season at Rock Hill. It may not have been your run-of-the-mill gruesome injury, but it certainly could’ve been.
“It happened in the second quarter when I dove on the floor,” Kimbler recalled. “My leg separated from my body. It was aching throughout the game but I finished. The next day, I could barely walk. I went to the doctor and they told me I had severely pulled my groin and also tweaked my hip flexor.”
Kimbler then went through three weeks of physical therapy and ceased all basketball activities until he was at full strength.
Even though Kimbler wasn’t even gone a month, his absence was certainly felt. The Bobcats, who usually boast of a fast-paced offense and rely on transition points, had to find new ways to score. Needless to say, at times, they struggled.
“He gives us momentum and he gives the other guys a sense of, ‘We can play with anybody.’ Just his ball-handling and shooting is huge for us,” Hollar said. “When you take a guy that can handle the ball and shoot it from frickin’ no man’s land, it’s obviously a good thing for us. When that’s not there, you have to find other ways to get things done. That can be tough.”
‘Frickin’ no man’s land’ is an accurate depiction of where Kimbler sometimes spots up.
Since his return, Kimbler has posted scoring totals of 28, 13, six, 32 and 22 points alongside 14 3-point field goals. While he’s far from selfish with the ball in his hands, he’ll be the first to tell you that shooting is what he likes to do best.
“Many people would think that shooting is what I do best and I would have to agree with that,” Kimbler said. “It’s always been the thing that I worked on the most. Even when I was a kid, I remember staying after practices and shooting with dad. Even now, I still stay after and shoot if coach leaves the gym open.”
His teammates are certainly appreciative of the work he puts in when nobody’s looking. But that bond reciprocates through Kimbler as well.
The senior says him and his teammates have a tight bond on and off the floor, which is a trademark of any team’s success.
“It means a lot to see how much my teammates enjoyed having me back. When I was out, everyone was out of position. When I made it back, my teammates were back in position and felt comfortable playing again,” Kimbler said. “We’re always together at school and after games. On the weekends, we always make time for some squads in Fortnite, too.”
With Kimbler back, hopefully for good, his squad looks to have its swagger back. Because of that, they sky’s the limit.
“We recently played South Webster and beat them by four in a great game. Last Friday, we took on Eastern who is undefeated in the league and lost by four,” Kimbler said. “Those are two really great teams that we have played with. If we keep playing that way, I see us making another district final appearance. Expectations for the rest of the season is to keep winning. I don’t want to lose another game and I know Coach Hollar is thinking the same thing.”
Reach Derrick Webb at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @dw1509.