Welcome to our 2011 Villanova basketball season preview. We're going to be previewing a player per day from here on out - which will take us right up to the first exhibition game against New York Tech. Today, we preview sophomore James Bell.
While rising sophomore James Bell did not play much during his freshman year, he did show those microscopic glimpses of why the school is so high on him late in the season. Stress fractures in the tibia bones of both his legs sidelined him for all of the preseason and the first five games of the regular season.
One can make the argument that while he was available for selection after the first five games, he was not physically or (more importantly) mentally ready to contribute to the team. Once inserted and given an opportunity though, he stepped up. Just look at his play in the Seton Hall game and you can see the combination of leaping ability and shooting touch that made him a member of the U19 USA team in Latvia this past summer and a highly regarded recruit out of Montverde Academy in Florida.
While only just a sophomore, Bell finds himself as one of the veterans of this year's team since 5 new players will be introduced when the season kicks off. Bell may find himself a spot in the starting lineup for a multitude of reasons (strong defense, ability to hit the 3) but the biggest of all may be necessity. We'll need him to (maybe unfairly) have a strong year to navigate the treacherous waters of the Big East.
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Bell started all nine games during the FIBA championships in Latvia over the summer due to Coach Paul Hewitt's belief that he was the team's best on-ball defender. Defensively, he has the size, quickness, and tenacity to be a menace out on the wings. Pairing him with Dom Cheek on opposing teams wings, and opposing team's points will be hard to come by. Offensively, he's at his best running the court on the break where his athleticism gives him a leg up against almost any defender. In half court sets, expect him to be used on the wing slashing to the basket or receiving kick outs from Maalik Wayns to knock down the open 3.
Much of last year's lack of playing time or impact was due to his surgery and his struggles to catch up physically and mentally with the rest of his teammates. Now a whole year removed from the operation, expect Bell to be in top physical shape to start the season and making a major impact. While its difficult to predict Jay Wright's lineups at this point, expect Bell to be in the top 8 rotation and receiving heavy minutes, especially when we need a defensive stopper on the floor.
What are your thoughts and expectations for James Bell this coming season? Can he step up and take advantage of the added minutes he's sure to receive?
When we're back tomorrow, we'll check in on junior Dominic Cheek.
Previous player previews:
- Dallas Ouano & Nick McMahon
- Achraf Yacoubou
- Darrun Hilliard
- Ty Johnson
- Markus Kennedy
- JayVaughn Pinkston