LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I didn't ask Pervis Ellison to give me a player comparison for Lamarr Kimble, the latest graduate transfer addition to the University of Louisville basketball roster.
He had quite a player comp for the guy everybody calls, "Fresh."
In fact, this was the first thing Ellison said while talking about the player he coached over six seasons of AAU basketball.
"Did you watch Michigan State play?" Ellison asked.
No more than a dozen times, Pervis.
"Fresh plays just like Cassius Winston," Ellison said.
The Michigan State wizard was voted first-team all-American by the Associated Press, named a finalist for the Wooden Award and point guard for the Spartan squad that made the Final Four.
"That’s exactly who he plays like," Ellison said. "He’s what you want in your point guard. He's the smartest player on the floor. He always makes great decisions. He's got that Philly toughness. He'll lead your team. He's just like Cassius Winston."
If Lamarr Kimble is Cassius Winston or even Cassius Winston Lite, then the University of Louisville absolutely has its guy to replace Christen Cunningham at point guard next season.
Too much hype is tossed around in the recruiting world. When a player commits, all the chatter tilts toward what a guy can do instead of holes in his game.
There has been a long list of guys who were the next Pervis Ellison or Milt Wagner until they weren’t.
Winston averaged nearly 19 points per game and 7.5 assets while making 46 percent of his shots and 84 percent of his free throws in one of the toughest leagues in the country. All of Winston's numbers were better than the 15.6 points, 2.8 assists, 39.7 percent shooting and 77.7 percent free throwing at St. Joe's.
But Ellison does not typically traffic in hyperbole. Remember the nickname? Never Nervous. Second freshman voted the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four when U of L won the 1986 NCAA title in Dallas.
Thirty years after he was taken as the first pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, Ellison lives in suburban Philadelphia. He retired from coaching high school basketball a year ago but his AAU team, the New York Rens, is expected to be one of the top squads on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer.
His top player is Lance Ware, a 6-foot-8 forward from Burlington, N.J. who is considered one of the Top 60 prospects in the Class of 2020. Ellison said the Louisville staff has called to tell him the Cardinals planned to recruit Ware.
During one conversation Ellison confirmed what a solid player U of L landed in Kimble.
Ellison started coaching Kimble in fourth grade. Kimble played on an AAU team with Ellison's son, Malik, who has started the graduate transfer process away from the University of Pittsburgh.
"I like to tease Fresh that he was just this little chubby kid but he always had handles," Ellison said. "That’s just who he was, the leader on my team for six straight seasons, and we won a lot of games. A lot of games.
"The ball was always in his hands. I think every kid on our ninth grade team got a DI scholarship. Malik, one guy went to Temple, two went to Villanova and Fresh went to St. Joe's."
St. Joe's is St. Joseph's, a proud Philadelphia school that competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference. It's the place that sent Jameer Nelson and Delonte West to the NBA. The Hawks fired Phil Martelli after the 2019 season, a move that spurred Kimble to look for a new place to play his senior season.
According to rivals.com, Kimble was a three-star recruit in the Class of 2015 whose five college offers were from St. Joseph's, Drexel, Hofstra, Robert Morris and St. Peter’s.
Kimble is listed at 6 feet on the St. Joe's roster — the same size as Winston. "He's probably 5-10 and change, maybe 5-11," Ellison said. "Some coaches just want more size at guard."
Ellison said that Kimble overcomes his lack of size with strong basketball IQ. He makes good decisions. He accepts coaching. He competes like crazy. He wins.
"As soon as you watch him play, you'll see that he's the smartest player on the team," Ellison said. "Even when he was the shortest player on the court, Fresh was always one of my top dogs.
"Without a doubt, Louisville got a good one. Without a doubt."
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