When speaking of a freshman basketball player, it’s extremely difficult to call him one of the best players to ever come through a collegiate program.
It’s even more difficult to make the claim when that program is the University of Oregon and has been around since 1902.
That said, freshman forward Jordan Bell is not just any freshman.
Through the first 16 games of his college career, he has become one of the most prolific shot blockers in the history of Oregon basketball.
“He’s focused, he’s listening and he’s trying to do everything we want him to do,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said.
During the Ducks’ most recent victory, a 59-56 win over Arizona State on Jan. 10, Bell set or tied three Oregon block records.
“We don’t win that game without Jordan,” Altman said. “Eight blocks, and he saved us on every one of them. I can’t say enough good things about him right now.”
Four minutes into the game, ASU’s Scott Roosevelt went for a layup, which was denied by Bell, giving him his 52nd block of the season, an Oregon single-season record that was previously held by Tony Woods, who had 51 blocks in 2012.
Bell finished the game against the Sun Devils with eight blocks, tying Blair Rasmussen’s 1984 performance against Davidson for the most blocks in a single game. His total of eight blocks was also the single game record for Matthew Knight Arena.
“Chasing someone from behind is way more exciting for me because they don’t see me coming, and that way I can put it into the backboard and grab it, or send it into the stands,” said Bell.
What makes Bell’s performance so special is the fact that he broke the record only 16 games into the season. Oregon is just halfway through their guaranteed schedule of play (not counting any postseason offers).
Entering the season, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Ducks was rim defense. Having a rim protector is so vital to Oregon’s success on defense because it allows the guards like redshirt senior Joseph Young, freshman Ahmaad Rorie, freshman Casey Benson and senior Jalil Abdul-Bassit to gamble on steals and get out on the fast break knowing that if they don’t get the steal, they have someone there to protect the hoop.
Bell, who’s listed at 6-foot-9, has turned into that rim protector. Averaging 3.67 blocks per game, Bell is surpassing all expectations.
“I just think there’s so much there that if we can get him to improve his skill level offensively and get him to think the game a little better,” Altman said. “If he does that, he’s an all-conference player down the road.”
Bell is the only player on Oregon’s roster to have blocked a shot every game and has broken the three-block barrier in 12 of the 16 games thus far, including eight games in a row. Bell knew he could be a special shot blocker, but really credits Altman and the defensive scheme for allowing him to succeed.
As Bell’s season and career progresses, there is no doubting his potential, and if he can find some sort of offensive game to go along with his prolific defense he might just become one of the best two-way players on the Ducks’ roster.
Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka