St. Joe’s assistant coach Dave Duda was upbeat in his assessment of the Hawks’ point guard play, with Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble manning the position. “Point guard play is a great strength on the team,” Duda began. Whether or not Newkirk and Kimble will be able to play alongside one another has been a major topic of discussion this offseason, and Duda directly addressed that. “They’ll play together this season,” he stated. “Both worked playing off the ball and each have been used in practice this way. It’s great to have two guys that can initiate offense.”
Last year, the Hawks had two all-league players in DeAndre Bembry, now of the Atlanta Hawks, and Isaiah Miles, now playing professionally in Europe. The Hawks also got significant contributions from seniors Aaron Brown and Papa Ndao. As a result, players like Kimble and Newkirk weren’t forced to shoulder too much of a load, and neither were primary components of opponent's’ scouting reports. That will change this year.
“It will be interesting to see how they handle being a top priority for other teams’ scouting reports,” Coach Duda said of Kimble and Newkirk. “They really took advantage of being secondary options last season. Big challenge ahead this year for both.”
Today, Hawk Hill Hardwood will look closer at junior Shavar Newkirk, and then profile Lamarr Kimble tomorrow.
Shavar Newkirk is entering a junior year this year on Hawk Hill where team expectations won’t be where they were a year ago. However, expectations for him will be elevated. Newkirk, a New York City native, really emerged last year, improving his play statistically in every category from his freshman campaign. His scoring rose from 3.3 points per game to 8, while his rebounding and assist numbers also made minor jumps. Most notable were the improvements in his shooting percentages. His overall field goal percentage leapt from 28 to 38 percent while his free-throw shooting rose from 57 to 73 percent and his three-point shooting shot from 19 to 30 percent.
None of those percentages jump off the page at you, but the key is in the improvement he showed last year. As a freshman, Newkirk made just six threes, shooting at that 19% clip. Last year, he hit 23 from downtown, and upped his shooting percentage to a much more respectable 30%. Now can he make another leap? “When he gets those feet set, he’s ready to make the next step in shooting the ball,” Duda explained.
In addition to his game improving by leaps and bounds, Shavar’s body has also undergone a transformation. He was listed at 170 pounds as a freshman, then 175 a year ago. This year, the 6-foot guard is listed by SJU at 180 pounds. “He went from a guy that never lifted much coming into college to one of the pound-for-pound strongest guys on the team,” said Coach Duda.
One of Newkirk’s greatest assets is his speed, and on a team that will struggle to get points this year, he will have to take advantage of his quickness to get out in transition. “He’s been really good this preseason, really pushing the pace. Should be and needs to be a double-figure scorer, while getting us a quality shot each time down.”
Newkirk’s numbers last year came in 23 minutes per game. He and Kimble are, without a doubt, two of the five best players on this year’s team. With the coaching staff seemingly willing to play the two together, that 23 minutes per game, and therefore his productivity, should make another jump. And Newkirk expects to make that jump as a junior. “He’s expecting a big year,” his coach declared. “As are we. The big question is if he can join the top level guards in this league.”
The strength of this year’s Hawk squad is in its guard play. As one of two upperclassman perimeter players, Newkirk, along with fellow James Demery, will have to shoulder much of that responsibility. As they go, this team will go. Tomorrow, our player profile series rolls on with sophomore point guard Lamarr Kimble.