Note: this article was written by Francesco Simone
Coming into this season, Chris Bell was arguably the second most highly touted of Syracuse’s six-man freshman class. Obviously, Judah Mintz was number one and no other player had a top 100 ranking from ESPN. Bell came in known for his shooting, with Jim Boeheim saying it’s between him and Joe Girard as to who the best on the team is.
Despite the hype, Bell struggled in the first couple of games of his career. The freshman scored five points in his debut against Lehigh, and followed it up with nothing in both the Colgate and Northeastern games.
Even with the struggles offensively, Boeheim stuck with Bell, playing him more than 30 minutes in both games of the Empire Classic, and the freshman made a statement. He scored 11 points against Richmond and 12 against St. John’s. Not astronomical totals, obviously, but major strides relative to the first three games.
The biggest moment came against the Spiders. With two minutes left in overtime and the game tied at 68, Bell hit a fade away jumper a step inside the three point line with a hand in his face. The fact that he had the confidence to take that shot shows how much Bell believes in his ability as a shooter, and the fact that he made it shows his talent.
Over the course of the two games in Brooklyn, Bell shot almost 50% from the field and over 40% from three. Those are tremendous signs for the freshman.
Now, it wasn’t a perfect two day stretch for Bell by any means. Combined between the Richmond and St. John’s games, he only grabbed one rebound in almost 70 minutes. That isn’t good enough for a forward in the Syracuse system.
Last season, Cole Swider, who played the small forward position that Bell now occupies, led the team with over eight boards per game. In the zone especially, Bell can’t just be a stand still shooter. He has to move better defensively and he has to be more aggressive going after rebounds.
Here’s the good news: he’ll learn. Bell told Boeheim that he never had to rebound in high school. This is a big step for the freshman that he needs to take. The size is there-he’s listed at 6-foot-7, and so is the athleticism.
Bel needs to adjust his mindset to this new style of play that the coaching staff wants him to have, which will take some time. However, once it happens and it pairs with his offense, which is finally showing itself to have real potential, that’s a really good player who is going to help Syracuse a lot.
What’s important for fans is to remain patient. Gerry McNamara said before the season began that it takes a varying amount of time for guys to adjust to the college game. Some, like Mintz, are dominant right out of the gate. For others, it’s a gradual process towards becoming an impact player. After a slow start and an early visit to Coach Boeheim’s dog house, Bell is starting to turn that corner.