MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mountaineer big man Jimmy Bell Jr. transformed his body over the offseason. Once weighing over 350 pounds, the senior forward shed roughly 80 pounds after arriving in Morgantown. He now stands at 6-foot-10, 285 pounds of muscle and strength.
He has needed that height and improved strength as of late. Over a nine-day stretch, West Virginia faced two talented 7-footers with two different skill sets.
The first was the 7-foot-4-inch Zach Edey of Purdue. Edey and the Boilermakers got the Mountaineer bigs into foul trouble, and dominated with 24 points and eight rebounds. Bell, meanwhile, was limited to just four points in 13 minutes of action and fouled out.
Round 2 against a 7-footer went better for Bell, though the game’s outcome was the same. Xavier’s Jack Nunge tallied 17 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks. Bell, meanwhile, accounted for 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, and a block.
Edey primarily stays anchored around the painted area, and does the majority of his damage close to the hoop. While Nunge also scores a lot from inside, he is also one of Xavier’s most productive three-point shooters, making him an even more difficult matchup for big men.
“I just use my strength against people. I have good feet also. So, I mean, I think I did a pretty good job against both bigs,” Bell Jr. said Saturday night after the 84-74 loss to the Musketeers.
Given that Nunge netted 25 points on 11 made shot attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers, against Gonzaga earlier in the week, it’s fair to say that Bell and company did a better job against him than the nationally ranked Bulldogs.
Playing away from the basket is something that Bell is used to.
“When I was at Saint Louis, I guarded Tre (Mitchell), he’s my teammate now. So, I’m kind of used to guarding the perimeter. I’ve guarded Obi Toppin before,” said Bell. “Like I said, I have great feet. So, when I get on the perimeter, I don’t be worried too much about getting beat. I just use my strength, use my feet.”
Bell has always been athletic. But thanks to access to better food and workout facilities than he’s ever had at his disposal as a college athlete, the big man is in a much better spot, physically, than he was when he arrived in Morgantown.
That transformation is part of what allows him to get outside of the paint and stay with players along the perimeter.
“It’s way easier. I mean, I can move better,” said Bell. “I’m not getting stuck behind, not getting on the side of somebody. I’m just moving my feet, just using my body against people, and you know people not getting around me so I use that to my advantage.”
Bell admits that he’s still getting used to the weight loss. Eight games into his return to Division I college basketball, he also said he’s moving better and jumping higher than before. Bell is also coming off his best performance as a Mountaineer.