February 28, 2018

Senior Bell Hits 1,000-Point Mark in Jadwin Finale As Tiger Men’s Hoops Tops Dartmouth, Ends Skid

RINGING TRUE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Amir Bell dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior guard Bell enjoyed a special finale at Jadwin Gym, reaching the 1,000-point mark in his career as Princeton rolled to a 64-47 win over Dartmouth. The Tigers, now 12-15 overall and 4-8 Ivy League, play at Brown on March 2 and at Yale on March 3 still in the running for a spot in the upcoming Ivy postseason tournament, which includes the top four teams in the regular season standings. Princeton stands one game out of fourth place heading into the final weekend of the regular season as it trails Cornell (11-14 overall, 5-7 Ivy) and Columbia (8-17 overall, 5-7 Ivy). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Amir Bell came off the court at Jadwin Gym for the final time in his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team last Saturday, he was showered with an avalanche of affection.

Many in the crowd of 2,754 on hand for the program’s annual Senior Night rose to give Bell a standing ovation as he left the game against Dartmouth with 2:42 remaining and Princeton on the way to a 64-47 win as it broke a seven-game losing streak, improving to 12-15 overall and 4-8 Ivy League.

Then Bell went down the Tiger bench, hugging and grasping his coaches and teammates one by one with smiles and laughs all around.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made his appreciation of Bell clear in his postgame remarks.

“Amir was here at camp in his sophomore year and I remember saying to myself that is exactly the kind of guy we want to get here,” said Henderson, whose team started the senior weekend with a tough 72-66 overtime loss to Harvard on Friday evening.

“I am so glad that he decided to come to Princeton. I am so proud of him. There is a disappointment as to where we all wanted to be this year but that doesn’t take away from what a great player he has been for us.”

With Bell hailing from nearby East Brunswick, his family and friends have become Jadwin regulars.

“We are going to miss that block of fans,” said Henderson. “His mom and dad have been big parts of our Princeton basketball family, so we are going to miss the Bells.”

Bell, for his part, has relished being cheered by his support system. “It is really special; I am really blessed to have them at almost every game,” said the amiable Bell, a 6’4, 190-pound guard.

“There are 10 to 12 people watching me. I can’t thank them enough for all that they have done for me; giving me this opportunity and always supporting me through everything.”

The Bell cheering section got to enjoy a special moment when he reached the 1,000-point milestone in his career, swishing a three-pointer with 7:02 remaining in the second half.

“To do it on the home court where you spend so many hours working hard and in front of our home fans, it is special,” said Bell, who totaled 17 points on the evening to push his career total to 1,002 as he became the 34th member of Princeton’s 1,000-point club.

“Sharing that moment with my fellow seniors and being able to do it tonight was really great.”

Bell’s teammates worked together to help him get that memorable bucket.

“In the huddle we talked about it and ran a play for me,” recalled Bell, who also had four assists to reach 305 in his career and pass his coach and former Tiger star Henderson for eighth place in that category in program history. “Alec [Brennan] ran a great screen and I got a good look.”

Henderson has enjoyed seeing the progress in Bell’s game over the years as the senior guard has saved his best for last,  averaging a career-high 10.2 points a game along with 3.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds this winter.

“He has gotten so much better with his poise, he is a lead by example type,” said Henderson, who also cited the contribution of Bell’s fellow seniors, Aaron Young, Mike LeBlanc, and Brennan. “It is hard to imagine life around here without him.”

With the Tigers still in the running for a spot in the upcoming Ivy postseason tournament, which includes the top four teams in the regular season standings, Henderson was relieved to see his team break its seven-game skid.

“Everything came together tonight, it doesn’t feel like it just took forever but it took forever,” said Henderson, whose team stands one game out of fourth place and plays at Brown on March 2 and at Yale on March 3 to wrap up regular season action. “It is unexplained a little bit but I was happy for the guys. I felt we played hard both nights.”

Whether or not Bell gets to continue his career past next weekend, he will always savor his time with the Tigers.

“It was bittersweet; I love playing on the Jadwin court,” said Bell. “It is the last time; you learn to cherish every moment. I thank coach Henderson for picking me out sophomore year. It is has been truly special and I can’t be blessed enough.”