Kentridge Saved by the Bell

It was an overtime loss at Auburn-Riverside a couple of weeks ago, but Kentridge PG Gary Bell could be satisfied with an impressive feat nonetheless; he scored 55 points to keep the Chargers close. It wasn't enough, but for the 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior, Bell's performances to date have been more than enough to earn Kentridge a 7-2 record, the only other loss to undefeated Federal Way.

"In the first quarter I had four points," he said of the game. "Not everything was dropping in. It wasn't until the second quarter I started to feel it. My shot was falling. Third quarter, same thing - my shot wasn't falling. In the fourth quarter and overtime, everything was falling. Streaky."

Overall, Bell is has been the exact opposite of streaky, averaging 26 points per game, much like you'd expect from a player has ranked as the 17th-best shooting guard in the country for the recruiting class of 2011. After that 55-point blast he got a call the next day from a school who had clearly been paying attention to his exploits. "I was kind of shocked," Bell said when he got a call from the UCLA Bruins. "It was the first time I talked to one of the coaches from UCLA, and he offered me on the spot. I talked to coach (Ben) Howland, and that's a big-time school. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they are more of a big man school, so I don't know about that."

Bell, being a point guard, is looking for freedom - on and off the court. And besides UCLA, he currently has offers from Gonzaga, Cal, Washington and Arizona State. "Oregon and Arizona have been calling my Dad a lot," Bell said of the recruiting process. "So it's starting to get crazy."

We spoke with Bell while the Chargers were finishing up a swing through Washington's Inland Empire. It was there where Kentridge beat Lewis and Clark 60-50 and Shadle Park 58-56. Bell had a combined 47 points in the two games, but ironically enough he's been working hard on his point guard skills to make sure his all-around game is second-to-none.

"I like being the leader on the team and being more vocal, leading by example and picking up my team," Bell said. "I like doing that." He's put in a lot of work in the gym with his father on fundamentals like bounce passes, chest passes and reading defenses. "Usually in the game, it's been working," he added.

Finishing this season off with a championship is first on Bell's mind, but he has more to look forward to once the season is over. When AAU season starts, he'll once again be paired with another star guard - Tony Wroten, Jr. - and Bell expects the two to do big things over the summer, especially when it comes to the point.

"I know he's getting recruited as a point guard and I am too, so we're going to switch off a lot," he said, noting that they have been talking about it even since the end of last summer.

Cal, UW and Gonzaga are recruiting Bell the most right now. They talk to him once or twice every three to four weeks. Cal Assistant Coach Travis DeCuire - who has ties to the area through his head coaching stint at Green River Community College - is the coach recruiting Bell for the Golden Bears. "I really like the coach, coach (Mike) Montgomery," Bell said. "His resume is great, coaching in the NBA and coaching some great point guards. He has a lot of freedom for guards, so that's good."

Being in Spokane currently, Bell and his teammates had a chance to see Gonzaga beat Eastern Washington by 42. "I like coach (Mark) Few," he said. "They are playing on national TV all the time. He has a lot of freedom for the guards too. We're actually in Spokane and we watched them yesterday play. The guards have a lot of freedom to do whatever they want, kinda."

And then there's the hometown school, Washington. "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar, he's a good coach," Bell said. "They are guard-oriented too. All the offers I have, they are all more guard-oriented."

And the team to have just offered have an ace in the hole in Kentwood center Josh Smith. Kentwood and Kentridge are rival schools, and according to Bell, the Chargers have gotten the better of the Conquerors four of the five times they've played, including a 65-57 win December 18th, a game Smith didn't play in due to injury.

"I haven't talked to him about (the offer), but the coach said they are going to get Josh on me to try to persuade me to go there," Bell said with a chuckle. Bell is hoping Smith will be ready to go when the two teams tangle January 30th in the Les Schwab Tires Kent Shootout at the ShoWare Center.

So with all these college choices in front of him, what is Bell thinking about? "I'm just trying to keep things open right now," he said. "I think I'll make my decision after the AAU season is over with. I'll know all the colleges that I'll have and the choices."

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