Times Sports Editor
One of the most pleasant surprises in the 2008-09 girls' basketball season was the emergence of Northview's Kirstin Kimball as a presence to be reckoned with in the post.
The Knights came into the season without a lot of experience after graduating starter Tara Crooks.
Kimball made the most of her senior season with the Knights, providing not only a statistical boost in the paint, but also a player that had to be game planned for by opposing teams.
The 6'0 senior's emergence did not go unnoticed outside the state either as Danville Community College's coaching staff were struck by Kimball's mobility and offered her a scholarship. On Monday, DCC head coach Lyle Hicks was present as Kimball officially signed her letter-of-intent to play for the Lady Jaguars next year.
"I came down and watched a game early in the year and didn't notice her," Hicks said. "But my assistant coach, Stacy White, came down to watch Spring (Raines) and she called me from the game and asked 'what about the six-foot center?'"
Hicks came back to see Kimball at the Plainfield game and left impressed, offering the Knight a scholarship spot with the Lady Jaguars following the game.
Kimball scored eight points against the Quakers and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in the contest.
"I came away very impressed with her movement," Hicks said. "When I came back to see her versus Plainfield, I felt she could play at the collegiate level and we invited her here."
Kimball's statistical improvement was obvious from the beginning of her senior season. She started just nine games in her junior year, playing less than four minutes per game and grabbing an average of 3.3 rebounds per game.
This year, Kimball made an instant impact on the court, scoring nine points and pulling down 13 rebounds in a season-opening win over West Vigo. In conference play, Kimball had a 10-point, seven-rebound game against Edgewood and a 12-point game against Brown County. One of Kimball's best games came against an Owen Valley team that advanced to the 3A State Championship game. The senior scored 12 points and yanked down 11 rebounds and in a win over Sullivan, Kimball scored 10 points and grabbed nine boards.
Kimball's season averages amounted to more than six points per contest to go with six rebounds a game for the Knights.
Kimball credited added confidence for her increased productivity for the Northview Knights this year.
"I had a lot more confidence this season," agreed Kimball. "I felt like I had the ability to do more things and I kind of let things happen."
Joining the Warriors, Kimball should have the opportunity to make an immediate impact as Danville graduates a 6'1 and a 6'3 player along with a 5'10 player as well.
Hicks also felt that Kimball's athletic ability would be a good fit for his uptempo squad next year.
"I like her ability to move," Hicks said. "She won't be a center for us, we're an uptempo team and last year's team scored 75 ppg. and two years ago we averaged 86. She'll be able to run the floor for us and we're going to challenge her to shoot the 3-pointer."
Hicks has been the head coach for the Lady Jaguars for five years during which his teams have been nationally ranked in shooting percentages and scoring each season. During the 2004-05 season, Danville led the nation in free throw percentage more than 90 percent of his student/athletes in basketball have graduated and accepted scholarships at Division I, II, III or NAIA schools.
His assistant coach that was initially impressed by Kimball's ability knows what it takes to play at the Division I level as well.
White graduated from Illinois State University and played for the Cardinals as well. She's a graduate of Seeger High School in Indiana.
Danville's Abby Kinder, of Elkhart Memorial, recently signed to continue her basketball career at South Dakota State, a Division I program that ended the year ranked No. 19 in the country.
Kimball admitted that making the adjustment to collegiate basketball will be difficult, but is excited for the opportunity.
"It's going to be a great adjustment," Kimball said. "I'm going to have to be quicker and more precise with my movements, but I'm excited to be able to grow more (as a player).
"I was really surprised when (Danville) had interest," Kimball continued. "But I'm really curious about what I can do in college. Who knows what the future holds?"
Academically, Kimball is planning on studying History Education and would like to teach the subject at the high school level.