Chilling in his Edmond apartment in the middle of the summer was Cameron Bell, the standout Millwood high school point guard. As he was hanging out with a few of his high school friends, including his former teammate Leo Mackie Jr., headed to Randall University for basketball, he cleared the room so that he and I could talk about his upcoming journey at West Texas A&M.
As he closed the door behind his friends, the television was off, Bell’s dog was placed outside and we sat on the couch across from each other to start this interview that eventually turned into a fun conversation.
I was trying to get some background information on where Bell’s journey started. When I looked at his Twitter, I saw where he went to Deer Creek for some time and wondered if that’s where his high school career started.
“I actually started at Putnam City North my first year.”
I was surprised because I had his whole journey leading up to Millwood wrong. I never would have thought he came from North.
“Towards the end of my freshman year, I heard that coach Jeffries [Michael Jeffries], my then assistant coach was getting the head coaching job at Millwood. He asked me if I wanted to come tag along and be his point guard. I already knew his system and how he ran things. I had other options, but I felt more comfortable with him, so I chose to take his offer.”
I have a lot of respect for Jeffries as a coach. I haven’t had a full conversation with him, but it is clear that he knows his players, cares about his players and runs his team well. He puts a classy brand on the court at all times but allows his players to have fun and be themselves.
In hindsight, it’s clear Bell made the right decision. He’s headed to an NCAA Division II school in West Texas A&M that is growing, rapidly, and has been rumored to be moving up to the Division I ranks soon due to their facilities and success athletically.
Growing up in the basketball circle, 18-year-olds often taken going to college for basketball for granted, because it seems like a lot of guys they’ve grown up with are going to play college ball. In reality, only 1-of-35 college high school basketball players go on to play college basketball. That’s approximately three percent, and that number decreases when talking about guys that go to play Division I or Division II college ball. Bell is truly in a special position.
“I’m blessed to be in this position. I put in a lot of work in the gym, and even more in the classroom to get to this point. It’s a big thing for me. I see other kids that don’t make it, so I’m thankful for all the small things that got me to this point. I’m thankful for all the people that helped me out, getting me to where I am now.”
When thinking about people that have helped him get to this point athletically, his father, Dominic Bell, deserves a lot of credit. He’s coached Cam throughout the majority of his playing career, but of course, there are pros and cons to that.
“The pros are having that confidence that if I mess up, yeah my dad will be harder on me, but I know I’ll be able to get it back and redeem myself wherewith other coaches, I may not get that opportunity.”
“The cons are that he’s cool with everybody else, but when it comes to me, he’s so hard on me. He’ll yell at me for every mistake I make.”
Bell also expressed that he knows it’s all in love. He knows his father cares about him, teaches him and tries to be more of a coach than a dad, so he treats him like everybody else.
Bell’s new journey to West Texas.
“I’ve always lived in Oklahoma, so going to Texas is going to be a big change because I’ll be away from my parents and doing things on my own, but I’m so excited to get my journey started.”
When thinking about Texas in relation to Oklahoma, you’d assume the entertainment value would increase. That’s not the case in Canyon, TX where the nearest bar is 18 miles away in Amarillo and even then, there’s just a handful of bars, which Bell isn’t old enough to attend.
“Of course I’m going to stay in the gym and take care of my grades but I guess I’ll just go out there and experience things. I’ll just see what there is to do. Most of my teammates said there’s stuff do in Amarillo and Lubbock is also close, so we may kick it out there from time-to-time.”
Bell isn’t ignorant to West Texas, though. His father also played for the Buffs in the 90s, which made me wonder if that influenced his decision.
“I know he played there, but the coaches that are there now weren’t there when he was there. But one thing that stuck with me was when he told me how much the community supports the basketball program and how much they want us to succeed while we’re on campus. That’s why I chose West Texas. They care about your success and don’t want to take advantage of you.”
Cam is a 5-foot-10 freshman guard, on a team stacked with talented point guards. Luckily, he’ll still have an honest chance of getting some playing time in his first year.
“My biggest personal goal is to get on the court and earn a spot. My goal for this team is to win a national championship. I also want to compete for freshman of the year, or at least make first or second-team all-freshman in the conference.”
Bell on the biggest obstacles in his first year.
“Getting the change from high school basketball to college basketball. It’s so much different. So much faster, so much stronger.”
He also cited time management as one of his biggest obstacles, which is impressive for him to say. Freshmen typically aren’t mature enough to think about things like this, but Bell talked about how he’ll have to take care of his priorities early, because of all the extra-curricular he’ll be dealing with.
When speaking of a national championship, Bell isn’t that far off. West Texas is returning five key players from last season’s (34-4) team, adding five freshmen, a junior college transfer from Butler and a transfer from Texas A&M. However, before West Texas can start talking about a national title, Bell knows more goes into it. Especially with adding 8 new players to the team.
“I want everyone to gel together. I want everybody to have that team chemistry, where we know where each other will be. We all have to have a great bond and learn something from each other on and off the court.”
Bell has his work cut out for him. He’s one of the three-point guards on the roster, but he’s the only freshman, but like mentioned earlier, he’ll have a chance to get playing time. With him being the smallest guard on the team, he’ll have to shine in other areas, though.
“I think my speed is the most important thing. Smaller guards are usually faster than everybody else. Making sure I’m able to change speeds frequently, hit open jumpers, get to the midrange and create for other payers. Being able to finish at the rim will be a big plus for me as well.”
Bell says he may catch a body or two this season.
Cameron Bell is a good kid that comes from a good background. His freshman year at West Texas A&M is just the beginning of a long college career, full of positive expectations. If he keeps the same goals he has now through his entire career, he’ll accomplish many great things both athletically and academically.
Bell and I continued to talk for about a half-hour after the interview concluded about NBA news, his personal life and more until another friend came over, which was my cue to leave. I wished him good luck on his upcoming journey and told him I’d be keeping up with his progress.