Durango HS-product Mia Bell on the brink of completing stellar career with Lady Rebels

Posted: March 11, 2014 in NCAAB
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

By W.G. Ramirez

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Photo courtesy: Daniel Ward/AWard Foto

Prior to Monday night’s opening round game in the Mountain West Conference Championships, UNLV women’s basketball coach Kathy Olivier leaned down and told senior guard Mia Bell, “I remember when you were a senior in high school, you were sitting right there.”

Pointing to the front row in the stands at the Thomas and Mack Center, the Durango High School graduate knew it was one place she didn’t want to return for the quarterfinals.

One win, that’s all Bell wanted Monday night; the chance to keep playing.

On the brink of the Lady Rebels defeating San Jose State, 78-75, to complete the largest comeback of the season – a 13-point deficit – there might not have been a bigger play in the game than Bell’s key steal in the paint with 18.9 seconds left in the contest.

“When you look up at the scoreboard and you need one stop, I think you kind of feel it,” Bell said after the win. “You kind of feel the urgency of the entire play. I definitely felt that. It was like ‘we get this stop, we can live to fight another day.’ If we don’t get this stop, we go home heartbroken. I didn’t want to feel that feeling. I felt that before. Didn’t want to feel it again.”

Bell knows heartbreak, on many levels.

Three days into her freshman year at Durango, Bell’s mother, Yvette, died of complications from a stroke.

“I think about it all the time,” Bell said, during a private interview Monday night. “I wear the No. 30 for my mom. It’s a constant reminder she’s here.”

That didn’t stop her from playing basketball and starring for the Trailblazers. In 2009, she scored the second-most points (52) in NIAA history against Clark. Her senior year she was named Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year after averaging 26.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

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Photo Courtesy: Daniel Ward/AWard Foto

She arrived at UNLV, and ended up starting 17 games as a freshman, and finished fifth on the team in scoring with 6.3 points per game, and things looked promising for the up-and-coming star.

Then she endured the first of two right knee surgeries, one prior to her sophomore year, to repair meniscus, the second a microfracture procedure that resulted in her missing last season, when she received a medical redshirt.

Overcoming her latest hurdle, Bell returned to average 11.8 points and a team-leading 3.8 assists for the Lady Rebels this past season.

“She’s very, very focused,” Olivier said. “She has an extremely high basketball IQ. She’s been a leader since her freshman year.”

Bell said this season has meant more to her than any other, especially down the stretch when victories have been hard to come by. Perhaps it’s because the team has rallied together, rather than fallen apart.

“What’s different about this team is we all just fight,” Bell said. “We might not have the best players, but we all trust each other. We’re doing it for each other, no one is out there doing it for themselves. We all love playing with each other.”

There’s no telling the potential Bell might have had if she didn’t incur those surgeries, as the WNBA might have been in her future. The subject didn’t come up, and she may have designs on dribbling that way once her career ends as a Lady Rebel. Fact is, she has the moves and the handles to dribble in any direction she chooses. According to Olivier, she also has the determination.

“She has done so much for us, in so many ways and people have no idea,” Olivier said. “She wanted to make a difference, whether it was in the community or at UNLV. She’s the first one who commits to community service, she’s the first one who wants to work camps. Those are all things that engage in the public. And when we do different things involving team bonding, Mia Bell is always stepping up, showing the way. That’s kind of what she’s done her whole time here, for five years.”

Sort of like with 18.9 seconds left in an opening round game and the season on the line. And the last thing Bell wants is to be sitting in the stands watching, rather than being involved.

The Lady Rebels have another chance to move on Tuesday night at 6 p.m., when they’ll face Fresno State, a team that has given UNLV all it could handle in two meetings this season. Win or lose, Bell will undoubtedly have one thing on her mind when she hits the floor for potentially the last time as a Lady Rebel – her mother Yvette.

“These are moments we talked about sharing together,” she said. “For me now, I know she’s still here watching me, so I’m doing it to make her proud knowing she’s smiling down on me.”

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