Next up for Jon Teitel in his interview series is Boston College's all-time leading scorer, Troy Bell. Bell, who won two Big East Player of the Year awards and also led the Eagles to the 2001 Big East regular season and tournament titles, the only time the Eagles did that as a member of the league. After a pro career that included stops in the NBA, NBDL and Europe, Bell has now taken up the sweet science (boxing). And if his hand speed is as explosive as his scoring ability, look out.
Jon Teitel: In 2000 you broke Allen Iverson's Big East record for freshman scoring (20.1 PPG in 14 league games). How were you able to come in as a freshman and contribute from the start?
Troy Bell: When I first got to school, the guy who primarily recruited me (Tim O'Shea) said he needed me to contribute because the team was 6-21 the year before. I had always been a scorer, so it was easy for me to play that role. When I started high school, I scored about 17 PPG on the varsity as a 5'7" freshman. Coach Al Skinner told us to shoot if we were open, so that took a lot of pressure off of everyone.
2001 NCAA Tournament
JT: You scored 18 points and had nine rebounds despite being in foul trouble in a three-point win over Southern Utah. Did you think that Justin Sant's shot at the buzzer was going in, and why was the game so close?
TB: I do not remember the shot, but I remember that game. They had a lot of good mature players, as many of them had come back to school after going on religious missions. They were a little better team than they got credit for.
JT: You scored a then-career-high 32 points in a three-point loss to USC, and were unable to get off a shot at the end to try and tie the game. What was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus?
TB: It was frustrating because I got double-teamed at the end. It is one thing to lose by missing a three at the buzzer, but it is something else to have a teammate shoot a two when you are down by three. We had come back from a large deficit, but USC went to the Elite 8 that year before losing to Duke, so they were good. Even if we had beaten USC, nobody was beating Duke that year.
JT: In 2001 you scored a career-high 42 points against Iowa State (17-17 FT). Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?
TB: Yes; it was one of those games where I just felt good. It was fun because it was on ESPN, and I was playing against a guy named Jake Sullivan who like me was also from Minnesota. I had a few good games before that as well, but that is when I was able to put it all together.
JT: You were a two-time All-American and two-time conference Player of the Year. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?
TB: It was a great. I was not a major recruit coming out of Minnesota, so the whole experience was a blessing. Anytime you are able to accomplish such things, you have to thank the head guy. I always hold Coach Skinner in high regard. So much of it is timing, as everyone these days has talent. I just worked hard and did my thing.
JT: You graduated as the all-time leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were?
TB: I never really thought about it. I would have agents calling me at the end of each season, telling me that I should go pro. As an only child, my main goals were to get better and get my education, so I would not have changed a thing. I think I would have broken Lawrence Moten's Big East scoring record (1,405 points), but getting injured my freshman year cost me eleven games, so I ended up falling short by only 17 points.
JT: In the summer of 2003 you were drafted 16th overall by Boston (two spots ahead of David West), then traded that night to Memphis where you ended up playing in six games. Were you thrilled to realize your dream of making it to the NBA, or disappointed that you immediately got traded?
TB: I would have loved to stay in Boston, as I went to school there and I think their offense would have suited me. Having Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker as the go-to guys, it would have been a great role for me as a shooter. I thought the trade was kind of weird, as I fit the Boston system better. It was the first time in my life that I did not have a role on the court, since Memphis coach Hubie Brown did not really play rookies that much. Rookies on other teams in the league got to learn their systems and take their lumps, but I did not get the chance to do that as a rookie, and then the following year I got hurt. I have never been a great practice player; I just show up and play well in the real games. Hubie was not a laid back coach like Skinner was. You just have to accept what happens, and it was a blessing just to get to that point.
JT: In 2006 you were selected 12th overall by Albuquerque, and later signed with Austin in the D-League. How did you like it, and what was the biggest difference between that and the NBA?
TB: Minor league basketball in general is very different. It was a good experience because I needed to play, and I was not sure if I was ready to go overseas at the time. The overseas game is much more intense than a D-League season; you are away from family/friends, you practice twice a day, etc. It was much more political in the D-League because they did not always play the best guys. I used to play in Italy with Jonas Jerebko, and I told him to try the NBA because he would have been the first guy from Sweden to play in the NBA. The NBA is a business, and if you are the only guy from your country to play in the league, then you will be a big part of the marketing in your home country. In my opinion, I think he is going to end up being a big part of a playoff team, because he has the talent to get there. He is a great leaper who can dunk over two guys on the break.
JT: After retiring from the NBA you played professionally in Spain, Germany and Italy. What did you learn from these experiences, and how did they compare to the NBA?
TB: I only played a couple of months in Spain before tearing my groin. The Italian league is very competitive, but I think European ball is more about skill than athleticism. It is more of a team game.
JT: After basketball you got into boxing. Why did you choose boxing, and how did it compare to basketball?
TB: I had a friend who was a pro boxer. I just started doing it to get in shape, but I really enjoyed it; it was refreshing to do something one-on-one with no coaches/teammates. I won both of the amateur fights I entered, but would like to have a pro fight someday.
JT: When people look back on your career, what do you want them to remember the most?
TB: As a player, I never think about what I did, but rather the fun times I had with my teammates. We had a hairy guy from Argentina who I called "Jesus", and one day some guys held him down and shaved a "J" in his chest: it was the funniest thing ever! Some of the fan reactions overseas were great as well; when you play one game a week in a smaller town, they really get excited when you win. The bonds that I formed were the most important thing. I remember that I met Chris Webber and some other members of the Fab 5 when I was about 10 years old, and he gave me an autograph, which I have never forgotten. It meant a lot to me as a young guy, so I tried to set an example when I got older and sign an autograph for every young fan who wanted one.
Troy is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in ACC history
Boston College: Troy Bell (2003) 2,632 PTS (#1), 272 STL (#2), 300 3PM (#1), 86.8 FT% (#1), two-time All-American, two-time conference Player of the Year
Clemson: Terrell McIntyre (1999) 1,839 PTS (#2), 577 AST (#3), 194 STL (#2), 259 3PM (#1)
Duke: Christian Laettner (1992) 2,460 PTS (#2), 1,149 REB (#2), 243 STL (#5), 145 BLK (#5), 48.5 3P% (#1), three-time All-American, conference Player of the Year, national Player of the Year, NCAA Tournament MOP
Florida State: Bob Sura (1995) 2,130 PTS (#1), 435 AST (#5), 209 STL (#3), 214 3PM (#2), two-time All-American
Georgia Tech: Mark Price (1986) 2,193 PTS (#3), 240 STL (#1), 44 3P% (#1), 85 FT% (#1), three-time All-American
Maryland: Juan Dixon (2002) 2,269 PTS (#1), 333 STL (#2), 239 3PM (#1), 85 FT% (#3), two-time All-American, conference Player of the Year, NCAA Tournament MOP
Miami (FL): Rick Barry (1965) 2,298 PTS (#1), 1,274 REB (#1), All-American
North Carolina: Tyler Hansbrough (2009) 2,872 PTS (#1), 1,219 REB (#1), four-time All-American, conference Player of the Year, national Player of the Year
NC State: David Thompson (1975) 2,309 PTS (#2), three-time All-American, three-time conference Player of the Year, two-time national Player of the Year, NCAA Tournament MOP
Virginia: Ralph Sampson (1983) 2,228 PTS (#4), 1,511 REB (#1), 462 BLK (#1), four-time All-American, three-time conference Player of the Year, three-time national Player of the Year, NIT MVP
Virginia Tech: Dell Curry (1986) 2,389 PTS (#2), 407 AST (#4), 295 STL (#1), All-American, conference Player of the Year
Wake Forest: Dickie Hemric (1955) 2,587 PTS (#1), 1,802 REB (#1), two-time All-American, two-time conference Player of the Year