Cole passed the baton in the fifth round, as she drafted Player Executive Committee member Sydney Colson, saying the veteran hooper flashed AU Hoops’ best pearly whites.
Wait’ll they get a load of AU rookie Kierstan Bell.
With a humble swag, brash confidence, an infectious personality and electrifying energy, Bell is sure to steal the hearts of AU fans when she hits them with her dazzling smile.
“She is a joy,” WNBA star A’ja Wilson said during media day in 2022, not too long after Bell was drafted 11th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. “She’s always joking, cracking jokes, and she is who she is and what I love about it, she doesn’t try to be anybody. She just does her thing. And that’s what I love the most. And that’s a sign of a good rookie. She knows who she is. She has that swag to her.”
Comfortable in her own skin and authentically herself, a pair of traits that gave her a chance to become part of the Aces, they’re the same attributes that will allow her to thrive among the 40-plus other athletes who are set to embark on season two of AU Hoops.
Not to mention the fact she can play basketball.
Bell holds records at Florida Gulf Coast with her 23.6 career scoring average, 23 career double-double games and is one of three players in program history with 100 or more career blocked shots (103).
Quiet as it’s kept, Bell has a chance to steal some headlines thanks to her keen ability to hybrid from someone who can run the floor, a shooter who can bury from long range, or being a dominating paint presence. Whether she’s scoring, rebounding, blocking shots, dishing assists, or clearing space for her teammates, Bell is the consummate professional who didn’t look like a rookie during the Aces’ championship run and won’t look like one as she debuts on Team Orange with captain Odyssey Sims.
“I just wanted to be a part of something that is fun, and rapid play and compete,” said Bell, who was taken in the fourth round by Sims, ironically, once again 11th overall in the entire draft.
Bell admitted she was unaware of Athletes Unlimited at the start of last season, but after seeing several people share stories and posts on social media, she became intrigued and was tuning into games by the second half of the season.
“I saw how much fun everybody had on social media, all the things that was going on,” said Bell, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year in her final year of college. “You got Syd, you got Tasha (Cloud), you got Courtney (Williams) – people that play in the WNBA – they’re playing in another league, but just having fun and just playing basketball and it’s a different type of system.”
Knowing points can be taken from your individual scorecard didn’t intimidate her – there’s that confidence – while knowing her strongest attributes on the court could help her creep up the leaderboard and potentially raise money for her cause (The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation), not to mention bonuses for herself, had her hooked on becoming a part of AU Hoops.
Bell’s ability to recognize situations on the court faster than anyone else and then react, her versatility of being able to transition from one place to the next, make the right reads in those situations, and most importantly doing those things in an efficient manner is what will makes her a weekly threat on the player leaderboard.
“Bell is fearless,” Aces star Kelsey Plum said last May. “I think as a rookie you come in, that’s one of the biggest hurdles to get over, not being afraid at the moment because it can be overwhelming. There’s so many things coming at you from your new offense, all this new personnel, to defensively who you’re guarding, all these changes on the fly, adjustments on the fly. I just love Bell’s mentality.”
Bell, the first player to be named the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons at FGCU, said she is simply approaching her rookie year in AU Hoops the same way she approached her rookie campaign in the WNBA.
She learned how to be a team player, cheering for starters like Wilson, Plum, Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young, rather than being the star of the team.
“You’re a rookie coming into the league, not sure if you’re gonna be playing, not sure if you’re gonna be getting any minutes, just not knowing,” she said. “So when I came into training camp the thing that I took was just – be me. That’s how I got into the league, how I got drafted, was just being myself and being confident who I am as a basketball player.
“And then when I came in the game, still lit it up, still played my game. It’s fun when you have fans and the organization still likes you even when you don’t get in the game. And that’s what it all comes down to, is just having fun.”
And while she’s looking forward to getting to know everyone in her new basketball family, Bell said she’s most looking forward to playing with, or against, the other WNBA players so she can gain knowledge from them. Whether it’s on-court technique, off-court tendencies, mental approaches to the game, Bell wants to cling to anything that will continue to grow her game.
“It’s good to have people that played in the WNBA that you’re gonna be competing against, that’s just better competition on the floor,” said Bell recently played with Adelaide in the Australian Basketball League. “Having people here, where I can learn from, and also compete against, to show how good I am, that’s what I’m most looking forward to.”
While in Dallas, and not on the court, Bell said she’s looking forward to taking in some Mavericks games and seeing Kyrie Irving, and eating at Dallas’ top seafood and soul food spots.
More importantly, it’s the bonds she’s heard so much about from the inaugural season in Las Vegas that she’s looking forward to experiencing.
“I’m just trying to connect with other athletes and see what they like to do outside of basketball, just continue to build relationships,” she added. “Other than that just really here to hoop man.”
W.G. Ramirez is a 35-year veteran sports reporter in Southern Nevada, serving as a correspondent for Athletes Unlimited.. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez
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