WESTPORT >> Before the 2012 season began, Jennifer Doughty heard through the grapevine that Lexi Kimball was thinking of trying out for the varsity basketball team.
The Greens Farms Academy girls’ head coach isn’t too keen on eighth graders playing varsity. It’s a big contrast in development and difference between a senior and a 13-14 year old. And sometimes that difference is too much to handle.
But Kimball wasn’t your stereotypical eighth grader.
“There was no doubting she was just an athlete and she loved the game. And you could see that she should have been there,” Doughty said.
The 5-foot-9 Greens Farms Academy guard, who just wrapped up her freshman season with the Dragons, has made an immediate and remarkable impact on the court.
She was part of a 10-11 season leading GFA to the Fairchester Athletic Association quarterfinals. She averaged a team-best 18.2 points game, 5.2 steals, 2.6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Kimball’s love for the game seems fitting in a career that is just starting to blossom.
“I like the ability of the game to be unpredictable,” Kimball said. And the better team doesn’t always win; you never know who’s going to win. It’s who comes out more and wants it, and that’s what I like.”
Kimball’s journey has been built on desire and going after what she wants; hence starting as an eighth grader.
But the success she’s experienced has been no surprise to Doughty.
“I taught her in fifth grade for P.E. (physical education) when she was a little girl,” Doughty said. “She was just as good as the boys, she was athletic, she had that competitive spirit.”
Kimball, who is from Fairfield, first started playing the game when she was eight years old. She said she remembered watching games with her dad and convinced him to sign her up for a league.
Since then it’s been a steady relationship with basketball.
“She just loves the game in a way that a lot of kids don’t,” Doughty said. “She just eats, sleeps and breathes the game. She wants to play all the time. She’s at home watching Hoosiers on a regular basis, she’s reading basketball books; that’s what pushed her forward. She didn’t wake up and just become good. She works at a different level.”
That different level has come with a learning curve. Kimball said starting as an eighth grader was daunting in the beginning but she became more comfortable as the season progressed. The one reservation was taking control of the game; something that took time.
“It took her awhile to learn it’s OK to take over a times,” said. “We want you to score.”
Also with the desire and passion Kimball possesses comes high expectations. The mental side, making mistakes and failing sometimes has improved.
“I started out being not very confident in myself,” Kimball said. “I had high expectations for myself to do well, and when I didn’t exceed those expectations I would get upset. And I think that as the season progressed I got a lot better at handling all of that.”
This winter in her second season with GFA, Kimball made huge strides on the court. She became more of a leader and learned to take on more, which was reflective in the statistics.
She scored a career-high 37 points against Hopkins, which set a new record, surpassing former GFA player Jasmine Williams of 2008.
But it’s been more than her offensive highlight show that has taken the spotlight.
“She’s huge for a guard 5-9, maybe 5-10,” Doughty said. “She’s long, she gets lots of steals and her steals create lots of things for her.”
She set the all-time GFA record in steals for boys and girls, finishing with 109 for the season.
“I love my defense,” Kimball said with a smile.
“I think my defense fuels my offense.”
Kimball was named a NEPSAC All-Star and selected to the FAA All-League team this season.
“The great thing about Lexi is she doesn’t know how many points or what her stats are,” Doughty said. “She would rather make the assist or score five points and get the win.”
Kimball will spend the offseason playing AAU for the first time for the Runnin’ Rebels coached by Doughty.
The team is a mix of players from around the area, including Fairfield, Greenwich and Stratford.
“She needs to play AAU,” Doughty said.
“She’ll be playing with girls that are very confident and love the game the way she does. She’ll have to learn to do different things, but the potential for her, infinite potential.
She’s so driven it’s hard to say where she’s going to go.”