Kimber twins’ last week could be bittersweet

By Steve Williams

Most high school sports reporters in the Knoxville area learned the jersey numbers of the Kimber twins four years ago because that was about the only way to tell them apart.

Denaj is No. 4 and Taj is No. 20. Both became starters as freshmen for Fulton Coach Jody Wright’s basketball team in 2020-21.

They’ve been standout members of the Maroon and White throughout their prep careers and The Focus is featuring them in this week’s issue.

As sophomores, they were state runners-up in the TSSAA tournament in Murfreesboro.

Last year, as juniors, they helped Fulton put together one of the greatest first-half performances ever in a state finale as the Falcons led 45-19 at halftime en route to an 82-52 victory over Haywood.

The Kimber twins will be playing in the state tournament for the final time this week and hope to win three games at MTSU and bring back another gold ball to FHS.

The first game will be in the Class 3A quarterfinals Thursday night at 8:45 (CST) against Fayette-Ware.

Denaj and Taj are 18-year-old fraternal twins and the sons of Deontra and Jazz Kimber. Both parents played basketball in high school – the mother at Central and the father at Austin-East.

The twins have two older brothers and four older sisters, with Jamonie, 14, the youngest girl in the family.

Taj said he’s the oldest of the twins by “five minutes.”

Taj also is the tallest at 6-4 and weighs 165 pounds. He plays a wing position and is a good scorer and rebounder.

Denaj runs the Fulton offense at point guard and a good defender. He’s 6-3 and said he weighs 157. “But I might have gotten heavier,” he added. “I’ve got to go weigh myself.”

Both shoot left-handed and are athletic.

A note about the twins’ past: Playing for Coach Linwood Holloway at Whittle Springs in middle school in 2019-20, they won the Knox County championship by defeating West Valley at South-Doyle, but lost the chance to advance to the TMSAA State Tournament when they lost to West Valley in a post-season rematch at Hardin Valley.

As for their future: They both have offers from Tusculum University, Maryville College, Roane State, Walters State, Columbia State and Johnson University, and plan to play together in college.

Here are some questions we asked Denaj and Taj:

Being twins, are you really close in other things you do?

Denaj: “Yeah, always. We enjoy being with each other doing other things. (But) basketball is not the only thing we’re close with … (We have) same friends (and enjoy) going out. You know, obviously brother stuff, not just twin stuff.”

Taj added: “Coming over to everybody else’s house and just hanging out.”

Any story on your similar first names?

Taj: “They came up with my name first and then they just decided to make the other name like it. Since we’re twins, you mind as well try to match each other’s names (in sound). Then they came up with Denaj.”

Denaj: “I think my mother told me they came up with my name from somebody in a concert … The name of the woman in the concert was Denajah, but they shortened my name to Denaj.”

Denaj, What would you say about Fulton Coach Jody Wright, who ranks in the Top 10 in the state in wins among high school coaches?

“He develops people,” said Denaj. “He might not get you places to play, but he’ll always develop you; make you a man going out of high school. Coach Wright is the best coach I ever had, aside of Linwood Holloway and my Pops of course. But other than that, I say Coach Wright is No. 1 right now.”

Taj, what would you like to say about Coach Wright?

“Coach Wright helped me through everything when I first came to Fulton …  skill-wise, footwork … Even being a man, Coach Wright has put me through a lot, but it helps me; helped me become who I am right now.”

Denaj, What’s your feelings about possibly having only three games left in your high school career?

“I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can these last few days of practice, these last few games with my guys for the last time,” said Denaj. “I know it’s going to end how we want it, but I know it isn’t going to feel good, so I’m trying to enjoy it right now.”

So you think it’s kind of going to be bittersweet?

“Yeah, exactly,” answered Denaj.

Taj, what are your feelings about going into this state tournament with possibly only three games left?

“I’m very happy to be in this position where we are now,” said Taj. “I’m glad we made it to where we need to be. We still got to buy-in and try to win all three.”

Denaj, What have you enjoyed the most of your years playing basketball at Fulton?

“Well actually winning the championship,” said Denaj. “Getting the ring, getting the trophy, cutting down the nets felt good. That’s my favorite right now, so hopefully I can have two favorites going on this year, too.”

Denaj, Outside of basketball, what have you enjoyed about being at Fulton?

“Well, I always say hopefully making it to graduation and enjoying that with my friends and family,” said Denaj. “And prom. I’m waiting on prom. I didn’t go to prom last year, so that too. We (Taj and I) didn’t go last year. We were playing AAU, so we weren’t really worried about prom. So we’ll go this year.”

Taj, Is there anything you want to add outside of basketball that you’ve enjoyed at Fulton?

“Just all of us connecting like being together, building a bond to where we always keep in contact with each other regardless of what goes on outside of school or basketball,” said Taj. “In the long run, we’ll still be connected.”

Taj, Do you have mixed feelings? Is it going to be kind of bittersweet?

“I can say I’m glad I’m happy, but at the same time I’m not ready to let go playing with my brothers, because I’ve been playing with them since we were kids,” said Taj. “So it’s going to be tough, but I’m going to just enjoy the time that we have and be ready to play every night.”

“This is hard to put into words. Those guys have come in from Day 1 and just been on a quest to get better. I love their work ethic. I love their personality. Man, you coach guys like that; I could coach forever. It’s really hard to quantify their contributions. They’re class kids. I don’t know how many times I get another coach call me and just compliment those guys: ‘I spoke to them after the game Coach. Just the way they interact with my kids.’ I get that literally all the time; coaches calling me to compliment those guys and then that affects everybody. It makes the culture of your program a winning culture when your best players are your hardest workers, and you can throw Tyler Lee in there with them. Nobody outworks those guys. So yes, they have been a joy to coach; they really have. I think I told them on Senior Night here was the day I’ve been dreading for four years. I knew it was going to come. Yes, what an impact they have had on our school, on our community. We’ve had some really good basketball teams here at Fulton; some really, really good ones and I don’t know if we’ve had any that our community and our people love as much as this team. They’re easy to like; they really are. And I give a lot of that credit to Taj and Denaj.”

– Fulton Coach Jody Wright’s comments on the Kimber twins


The Kimber twins’ favorites

Denaj’s ‘favs’

Color: red and pink.

Food: chicken and tacos

Soft drink: cranberry juice

Dessert: birthday cake. “I don’t like all that chocolate stuff.”

Hobby: reading. (Big Nate and Amulet books)

Class subject: math.

Pro or college sports: NBA, “because I watch it more.”

NBA team: Denver Nuggets

NBA player: Nah’Shon Hyland

College team: Tennessee

Taj’s ‘favs’

Color: red

Food: chicken wings

Soft drink: strawberry lemonade

Dessert: Cookies and Cream ice cream

Hobby: “just basketball.”

Class subject: math

Pro or college sports: “College for sure. College is more competitive.”

College player: Elliot Cadeau

Pro sports: NBA

NBA team: Golden State Warriors

NBA player: De’Aaron Fox

College team: North Carolina basketball