“I‘m the same person regardless if I’m a captain or if I’m just on the team. I think I just come with the same energy, come with competitive nature.”
Energy has been a recurring theme throughout Kierstan Bell’s Athletes Unlimited season. It’s often used to describe her as a player and now, it’s the same aspect that has her excited about the team she has built as a captain.
Bell found herself in the captain’s chair on Sunday unexpectedly. In just three games, she shot from No. 9 to No. 3 overall on the leaderboard.
In the AU scoring system, that’s feasible in the first two weeks of competition but rare to make that large of a jump halfway through the season. Bell’s priority entering AU was to “come in with the open mindset of just coming to hoop,” but captainship wasn’t on her radar.
“I told my mom, ‘I don’t wanna be a captain, I just wanna hoop.’ And she was like, ‘Well, what if you end up being a captain?'” Bell reconsidered. “It’ll be nice to be a captain, you know, make the practice plans, being able to be in charge of a team. (Carlos) Knox is gonna help me out. We [are] gonna get things rolling.”
Bell has worked heavily with her facilitator Carlos Knox throughout her captainship. Each captain approaches utilizing their facilitator differently and Bell has relied on him in helping to execute her ideas. Knox reiterated almost exactly how Bell described herself.
“KB is more of a, ‘Hey, let me just play, let me hoop,'” Knox said. “But she does an excellent job of getting information to me and some of the things that she wants to implement and to her team.”
Bell had three priorities for the group she was building: sharing the ball, running the floor, and rotating in off the bench well.
At practice, Team Bell bounced off of the energy of their captain. Despite it being Week 4 when many athletes are feeling fatigued, they were loud and lively.
They tried to carry that energy into the first day of games but got to a slow start against Team Smith. Team Bell was in a 22-point deficit they would spend all game clawing their way out of.
At the end of the quarter, Knox looked to the group and told them, “Now we know we can never start a game like that again.” Team Smith led Team Bell by a 30-8 margin but the team didn’t hang their head. Each quarter after, they chipped away at the lead.
“I just feel like we came out lax and I feel like no one really took it as seriously as they should have with this being the first time that our team played together,” Knox explained. “They had to get acclimated to each other and see exactly what was going on on the floor before they made adjustments.”
And the adjustments from then on worked.
They won the next two quarters and took a 2-point lead in the fourth for the first time all game but were unable to seal a comeback victory. Evina Westbrook tied the game at 90-90 with a pair of free throws with 22 seconds remaining, but Kristi Bellock splashed a three off on an inbound play and pass from Kelsey Mitchell with 2.9 seconds remaining.
Bell has experienced the highs of an ASUN Conference Championship in college and a WNBA Championship in her rookie season with the Aces.
Win or lose, her energy always bounces back.
“KB is one of the [most] fun captains that I’ve been a part of,” Knox said. “Because she has that jovial attitude and mentality and she’s just able to get everybody going with their words. You gotta watch out for her because if she gets hot and she gets in a great rhythm she’s a pretty good player.”
Despite the challenge of getting to know one another this week and a first quarter that tested them, Bell and her team still showcased who they are as a team when aligned.
“I think just for these last two weeks, it’s about having fun but also still wanting to compete and try to get your name onto the leaderboard,” Bell said. “We’re gonna just play free.”
Girls Talk Sports TV, Khristina Williams join inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited Basketball
Image courtesy of Khristina Williams
Backyard ball: Sashel Palacios
Sashel Palacios © Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2022 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Recap: Team Denham builds on early lead to secure 7-1 win and win points sweep
© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Sarah Smith
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