According to many critics and basketball talking heads, redshirt freshman center Dave Bell was a "reach" for the Buckeyes in an otherwise outstanding 2014 recruiting class. As Ohio State offered Bell in February of 2013, Bell's highest offer prior to that was from DePaul, a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2004.
A developing big man with a great deal of upside, Ohio State's commitment to Bell would never waver, despite the Buckeyes' hot pursuit of several four and five-star big men in the class, including Myles Turner, Goodluck Okonoboh, and Elbert Robinson. Off to a strong start in a redshirt freshman season, Bell has improved in all facets of his game, while putting on some noticeable muscle to a long and wiry frame.
A Look Back
Really breaking onto the Ohio high school basketball season in his junior season, Bell would continue to improve for the remaining year and a half of his high school career. A lengthy and active 6-foot-10 big man with a 7+ foot wingspan, Bell can alter a moderate percentage of shots underneath, and is athletic and mobile enough to run the floor better than most players his size.
Missing his entire sophomore season due to a broken hand, Bell would put forth his strongest commitment to basketball during that following season. As Garfield Heights head coach Sonny Johnson worked tirelessly with Bell in the gym to help raise his junior big man's court awareness and IQ on both ends of the floor, Bell would end that season with offers from the Buckeyes, DePaul, Cleveland State, and several others. Averaging just under 18 points per game as a junior, Bell's scoring would dip several points as a senior, but the Cleveland-area big man would improve in other parts of his game, including rebounding and low-post defense.
Outlook for 2014-15:
Using this season to redshirt and get stronger, Bell will be allowed time to develop as Ohio State has experience in the front court this season between seniors Amir Williams, Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee, a transfer from Temple. With that type of veteran leadership, look for Bell to make some major strides in practice, as the freshman big man looked to be vastly improved when I last watched him a week ago, compared to earlier in the year. Bell is still fundamentally raw and is improving all parts of his offensive game, but under the development of Thad Matta and the rest of the coaching staff, the redshirt freshman has a chance to be a productive player down the line.
"I know I am a project," Bell told Cleveland.com back in January. "All I do all day I work so I can get better and hopefully turn into something great at Ohio State. But I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to get better at before I am on that level."
Best Case Scenario:
Drawing comparisons to former LSU power forward Tyrus Thomas from Matta, a similar redshirt freshman season in 2015-16 would be the obvious best case scenario for Bell. As Thomas was in a similar position coming to LSU in 2004, he would burst onto the national scene the following year all the way to the point of being selected fourth-overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2006 NBA Draft. While Thomas' story is the ultimate best case scenario for any developing big man undergoing a redshirt season, Bell has a similar level of upside that Thomas once possessed. Whether or not Bell ever actually develops into the low-post force many think he could become, remains to be seen.
Worst Case Scenario:
Bell doesn't develop at the pace the coaching staff is hoping for, and is still a year or two away from legitimately contributing following this season.