MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Jimmy Bell is no stranger to adversity.
“Growing up in Saginaw, Michigan, it’s not a great place to be around. I lost a lot of family members growing up. I lost a lot of childhood friends growing up to gun violence or car crashes or even natural causes. It’s been a lot of trauma I’ve dealt with since I was young,” Bell said. “It made me who I am today and I’m thankful for it.”
The strength to overcome all of those obstacles in his past is a big reason he was able to conquer to yet another feat when he arrived at WVU – completely changing his body.
When Bell arrived in Morgantown, he weighed in north of 350 pounds. Two weeks before the official start of the men’s basketball season, he’s checking in around 280.
“I was one of the first guys to get here this year, so I was just working three to four times per day. Coach Shaun (Brown) was on me heavy,” Bell said. “I changed my diet. I stopped eating so late. I cut our fried food and a lot of sugar. Just really changed my diet and works out. All that came into play. I was losing about eight pounds a week. It was just dropping off me.”
Anytime he found himself struggling during his near 75-pound transformation, he remembered everything he had been to leading up to it, and that allowed him to break down any mental barriers standing in his way of accomplishing his goal.
As they always say, step one is realizing you have a problem. That’s exactly what happened to Bell upon his first-ever visit to Morgantown.
“The food is different and I didn’t work out as much as I wanted to so the weight just kind of got on. When I weighed in on my visit and they said I was 350 I was like ‘Woah, I didn’t know it was that much,’” Bell said. “That kind of woke me up and I knew I had to lock in and get right.”
And that’s exactly what he did. The results came a lot quicker than Bell anticipated, but as soon as they started happening, he could see and feel the immediate changes.
He’s faster. He’s stronger. He’s more physical. That also led to more confidence.
“I’m moving a lot better. Jumping a lot higher. When we do our sprints, I’m running with the guards sometimes,” Bell said. “I’m getting above the rim a lot more. Dunking the ball a lot more than I was. I can jump higher. I’m using my body. Jump hooks, spin moves, getting a 15-foot jump shot in. My game has changed a lot. Post moves. Counter moves. Everything.”
Now in order to realize just how much Bell’s game has changed, you have to look at where it started. Before Bell made the decision to play collegiate hoops, he was using his size advantage in another spot — football.
“I had great feet. I was so big when I was playing football. I was about 6’8, 380-pounds in 10th grade, so I was already a big guy,” Bell said. “Great feet and great hands at left tackle so I think that transferred to basketball.”
Will fans see any of those offensive line moves on the court? Bell said, “you’ll see.”
He’s certainly changed a lot from a sophomore in high school that no doubt gave opposing defenses fright. He’s still has a big frame and great strength, but he’s learned how to better use it to his advantage on the court.
He went to Bella Vista College Preparatory School in Scottsdale, Arizona to start fully focusing on basketball. That led him to Saint Louis to begin his collegiate career and then took him to Moberly Area Community College where he spent last season.
It took some time for Bell to get where he is today. He made a few other stops along the way that were just as important in his progress, but now, here at WVU, he finally feels like he is home.
“Saint Louis was a great place. I still talk to those guys every day,” Bell said. “They call me here and three just to check on me, but here, I’m definitely home. Coach Huggs brought me in and came to see me in JUCO. When I first met him, we fell in love with each other. We have a great relationship.”