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Redshirt freshman center David Bell could surprise us all

Despite low expectations coming into the season, Bell could make an impact off the bench.

David Bell poses with LeBron James at an Ohio State football game in 2014.
David Bell poses with LeBron James at an Ohio State football game in 2014.

After redshirting the 2014-15 season, center David Bell is entering this season much more bulked up than when he first came to Columbus last summer. He is one of few returning players coming back to the Buckeyes on a team loaded with redshirt freshmen.

The 6-foot-10, 225 pounder from Garfield Heights, Ohio was unheralded coming out of high school, earning a three-star rating during his recruitment in a class filled with four and five-star recruits. He was redshirted in an uncommon move by head coach Thad Matta, who could see the potential that Bell offered, but also the need for enhanced development.

Despite being deep at the center position, there is little proven talent following the departure of Amir Williams, Anthony Lee and Trey McDonald. Virginia Tech transfer Trevor Thompson is the expected starter at the position after sitting out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but Bell could make a case for the starting job.

A look back:

Bell described himself as a "project" coming out of high school, knowing that he would likely not get playing time along with his star-studded recruiting class, which included now-Laker D’Angelo Russell. Matta had already told Bell that he would be redshirting his freshman year prior to offering him a scholarship. That’s because Bell really only has two years of basketball under his belt coming out of high school, not having played his freshman year and missing his sophomore season with a broken hand. He averaged 17.3 points per game as a junior, along with 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks. Bell’s scoring dropped slightly during his senior season, but his basketball IQ was raised significantly in just his second full-season of play. He has put on some weight since he first came to Ohio State, and spent part of his summer with Athletes in Action playing basketball in Poland.

Outlook for 2015-16:

It is unlikely that Bell will start, and also unlikely that he will see significant playing time at the beginning of the season behind Thompson and four-star true-freshman Daniel Giddens. However, given his growth and development during his redshirt season, he could surprise us all. An outstanding defender in the post, Bell would have to add to his offensive game in order to be successful at this level. This ability could lead to more minutes as the season goes on, which would enhance his development and lead to stronger play in the future—most likely next season. Still raw in his game, any experience will help to further improve Bell’s basketball IQ moving through the season.

Best case scenario:

Last year, head coach Thad Matta compared Bell to former LSU power forward Tyrus Thomas, who also came to college unheralded and redshirted during his freshman year but ultimately wound up being selected No. 4 overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. While this case is certainly the exception rather than the rule, Bell has the natural physical ability to become a great basketball player.

There are lots of opportunities for young players on this Ohio State team to step up, given that there are so few upperclassmen after losing six players to graduation and the NBA Draft. Despite not having played on the active roster last year, Bell is familiar with the system at Ohio State, and that could give him an initial edge over the incoming true freshmen.

Worst case scenario:

Bell warms the bench behind Thompson and Giddens, receives no meaningful playing time and does not develop beyond his current abilities.