AMERICUS — The Georgia Southwestern men’s basketball
team has hit several roadblocks since joining Division II and the
Peach Belt Conference.
Cincinnati native Talmadge Bell knows the feeling.
Bell played his first two seasons at Coppin State from 2005-07 before seeing his time reduced, and he eventually left the MEAC school located in Baltimore.
Bell earned his associate’s degree at Cincinnati State and is ready to get back on the hardwood. GSW men’s basketball coach Mike Leeder has welcomed him with open arms as Bell is the sixth recruit for the 2010-11 class.
“I think I’ve made some mistakes recruiting, and I think one thing that I’ve learned especially over the last two years is you can’t cut corners in the area of character,” said Leeder. “That’s a self-inflicted roadblock. We’ve made a consorted effort to put character first now. I did that when I was 26 as a first-year head coach, and the last two years I’ve gotten away from that. That’s something I shouldn’t be figuring out now.
“Talmadge is looking for a fresh start, and so are we. It was the right person finding the right program at the right time.”
Bell led the MEAC as a freshman in 3-point shooting at 41.7 percent and was named to the MEAC All-Rookie Team. He averaged 7.1 points a game as a freshman and scored 17, which included five 3-pointers, at Clemson and twice against NCAA Tournament participant Florida A&M.
Trouble arose for Bell after his freshman season. Bell’s younger brother had verbally committed to Coppin State, but decided to go to Florida A&M. Bell said the relationship with coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell was never the same. His playing time decreased, and he decided to transfer.
But the high school salutatorian’s grades dropped and couldn’t land another scholarship. After he increased his grade point average at Cincinnati State, he made calls to prospective schools to no avail. That was until he called Leeder, now 11 days ago.
“We were recruiting him when he was looking to transfer,” said Leeder. “When you look at his freshman year, he produced on the Division I level. The time he’s been away, he’s gotten bigger and stronger. The guy’s proved he can score, and we need another guy to make some 3s. Shooting is a skill, and that’s something you don’t lose. Some of the other parts may come and go, but guys who shoot the ball can always shoot the ball.”
Bell is 20 pounds heavier at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, and he said he’s become more than just a shooter.
“I’ve been described as a shooter, and I shoot it really well,” said Bell. “I had to play defense with (Mitchell), and I can put the ball on the ground now. Because I’m a lot bigger and stronger, I can handle myself going to the hole.
“But my biggest asset to me right now is my drive and hunger. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, and I want to show every single school I called they missed out. Somebody’s going to see.”
That’s the kind of attitude Leeder is looking for and expects to get from this class.
“I think we have a more mature group than we had last year,” said Leeder. “I think we have guys who are more committed to being good teammates and guys who play with that purpose. The last two years we haven’t believed in defending and rebounding. This group will mirror the things I believe in.”
Bell, who will be a junior, will be one of the more experienced players on the roster. He said he already has an idea what’s expected of him.
“I feel like he’s looking to me to be a leader and to produce,” he said. “With that being said, I take pride in what I do and my defense. Coach Leeder is looking to me to do those things, and that’s what I plan to do.
“I think I’ll be an added player who has the mental toughness and pride to finish out games and help us win. I believe he told me had two to three guys coming in and are going to do the same thing. I can’t do it by myself.”
PHOTO BY: Coppin State Sports Information