Martyce Kimbrough likes proving people wrong. But this week he would enjoy proving people right even more.
Since the first day of practice, Lima Central Catholic’s boys basketball team has talked about as a possible state champion. Now the Thunderbirds (23-4) have a chance to prove those predictions were correct, starting with a Division III state semifinal against Cincinnati Roger Bacon (22-4) Friday afternoon.
Kimbrough, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 170-pound guard averaging 18.4 points a game, is the only senior starter for LCC. Tuesday, he was named first-team All-Ohio and shared D-III Player of the Year honors with Roger Bacon’s Carlas Jackson and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s Brian Parker.
He is a one sport guy. No fall sports, no spring sports. He plays basketball whatever the season.
But if he ever decided to try debating, he’d probably be pretty good on that team, too.
“The biggest thing with him is that he has always been a competitor,” Lima Central Catholic coach Frank Kill said. “He really thrives on you telling him he can’t do something, and he will prove you wrong.”
Kimbrough said, “If you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll go work on it and prove I can. That’s just my personality in everything. ”
When Kimbrough arrived at LCC, he was a skinny freshman who weighed around 135 pounds. “If that,” he says, with a laugh.
If there were skeptics, he has disproved them, becoming a three-year starter who will move into the No. 4 spot on LCC’s career scoring list with his first basket in the Thunderbirds’ state semfinal game. He signed with NCAA Division II University of Indianapolis in November.
With 1,027 points, he is one point behind the current No. 4, Anthony Hutchins. Joe Fisher (1,756), Aaron Hutchins (1,497) and Bruce Hodges (1,115) hold the top three places.
“He had his own individual goal of scoring 1,000 points but he knew the ultimate goal was getting to Columbus to try to win a state title,” Kill said. “He is a guy who has done it very quietly. He has always been the No. 2 or No. 3 option in our offense until this year. Now he’s the man everybody looks to.”
Kimbrough’s 1,027 points haven’t been entirely quiet. He has been one of the top 3-point shooters in the area the last three years in terms of attempts and success. This season, he is hitting 42 percent from 3-point range.
His game has grown from 3-point specialist to team leader over the last three seasons. “My sophomore year it was 3-point line, 3 point-line. That was all I did,” Kimbrough said.
“To be honest, I’m still not the player I want to be. I believe I’ve gotten better but I know I have a lot of improvement to do. I want to get quicker, faster, stronger. If I can do that, I think the other things will fall into place.”
One of the roles Kill wanted Kimbrough to take on this season was as a leader on a team that starts three sophomores — Xavier Simpson, Tre Cobbs and Dantez Walton — and a junior, Jake Williams.
“Martyce has been a great leader. He has taken this year’s team by the horns and is helping the sophomores understand their roles. I think he sees the importance of leadership and discipline,” Kill said.
Maybe one of the moments when leadership counted most was the weekend of Feb. 14-15.
After losing to Spencerville on a last-second shot Friday night, LCC won 89-83 in overtime against Celina on Saturday night. Since then, it has won seven times with only one game closer than 15 points.
“We had a tough loss at Spencerville. The next day we knew we had to bounce back,’ Kimbrough said. “Before the Celina game at shoot-around that morning we were saying how we wanted to come together as a team and move forward and start working toward our goal, which was to get to the state championship.
“It hit me in practice Monday. It was like, ‘Man, we’re actually here.’ It’s something you dream about when you’re a kid. To actually be here is a blessing, a dream come true,” he said.