The Bo Show was a go.
Early reviews of Bo Kimble's debut in a Loyola Marymount basketball uniform Friday were unanimously glowing.
Yes, this was Bo's first game in a year and a half and, yes, Bo was a little tentative coming back from a knee injury. Sure, the competition was only little Southern California College, which doesn't compete on the NCAA level.
Still, the 1,100 people on hand Friday night were excited to see Kimble come off the bench and start scoring in bunches as the Lions belted SCC, 140-106.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, who transfered from USC with teammate Hank Gathers and had to sit out last season to meet NCAA transfer requirements, made his first appearance with 12:10 left in the first half and opened up with a three-point rainbow from his favorite spot on the right side.
He made a second appearance with four minutes to go in the half and impressed everyone worried about his knee when he caught an offensive rebound and jammed it in one motion. Then he hit four straight free throws to give Loyola the lead for good. He finished the half with nine points--but he was only getting started.
Kimble came in at the 13:30 mark in the second half and immediately took a feed from Corey Gaines for a fast-break layup, a play the Loyola faithful hope to see often this season.
Kimble then drove for a layup, hit a pullup 15-footer, dunked off Gaines' steal of an in-bounds pass, tapped in his own missed shot and bombed in a pair of three-pointers. With about three minutes left he added another three-pointer. He finished with 28 points in 16 minutes, hit 10 of 17 shots and was 4-of-7 from three-point range. When he came out of the game he received warm handshakes, high fives and pats from teammates. It was a Bo-dacious start.
Gaines' review of Bo's debut was enthusiastic. "My man is BACK!" Gaines declared. "No more losses."
Bo was aglow as he talked to the press and was interviewed by the campus radio station. He estimated his effectiveness at "75 to 80%" and acknowledged that he got winded. But he said his knee had "no pain whatsoever" and added: "If I had to play the whole game, it would have been no problem."
He also said it was "a great feeling to be back and competing against somebody other than teammates for the first time in almost two years." Kimble had been nursing a kneecap fracture and only received medical clearance to play a few days ago.
Coach Paul Westhead said the game was "a perfect situation" in which to ease Kimble back into the lineup. "This was the kind of game we could slide him in and get him some shots with no fanfare," he said.
Westhead said it's too soon to predict what to expect from Kimble in the next couple games--"hopefully he'll come off this feeling well," was Westhead's wish--and said the team and Bo will probably be back to full strength around the new year.
"We're probably two weeks away from getting the team in full swing, maybe 10 days," he said. Once Kimble is back in shape and starting, Westhead said he will be "the kind of player who, (with) the clock's winding down and everybody covered, will create a shot, whether he's covered or not."
For now, Kimble and his teammates can celebrate an early Christmas. At least the gift wrapping is finally off.