As one of the all-time most decorated high school women’s basketball prospects from Ohio, Kierstan Bell is familiar with pressure.
Ranked as a top-10 prospect in the country by ESPN, Bell is a 6-foot-1 guard from Canton McKinley High School. Coming off a high school career that ended at No. 4 on Ohio’s all-time scoring list, Bell faces high expectations as an Ohio State freshman.
“I think [Bell] should have a really big impact for us this year,” head coach Kevin McGuff said. “She’s got the talent and skill, and she’s working really hard, being a great teammate.”
Bell is the second player ever to win Ohio’s top high school basketball award three years in a row: Ohio Ms. Basketball as a sophomore, junior and senior. LeBron James is the other, winning Ohio Mr. Basketball 2001-2003.
Pamela Davis, Bell’s high school coach, said she knew Bell would be special when she saw her playing in middle school. Davis said Bell valued the game above the accolades and attention it garnered her.
“She really didn’t talk about herself. I thought she was a really humble kid,” Davis said. “She never missed a practice in her four years at McKinley.”
McGuff and Davis agreed that Bell brings a level of versatility to the court that most players her size don’t possess.
“I can do a lot of things,” Bell said. “I can play one through four. Just being able to handle the ball, running both sides of the floor, being a good defender.”
Bell noted that a lot of people don’t know who she is now that she’s in a new place. She’s ready for the pressure that comes with a new season and holds herself to high standards for her freshman year in Columbus, she said.
Davis knows Bell still has challenges ahead of her.
“Kierstan has not reached her potential. She still has a lot of room for growth, and she’s in a great system with coach McGuff,” Davis said.
Team comes first for Bell. She said her No. 1 goal is for the Buckeyes to win games, and with one of the highest-ranked freshman classes in school history, Ohio State’s groundwork is laid.
However, Bell is keeping an eye on personal achievements as well.
“For myself, I want to become a better all-around player. [Big Ten] Freshman of the Year — that’s another goal I had in mind,” Bell said.
She and her freshman teammates are already developing chemistry, seeking to help the Buckeyes rebound from a disappointing 14-15 record a season ago.
“We all clicked really well,” Bell said. “We came to Ohio State for one thing and that’s to win. Everybody has the same mindset; everybody wants the same thing and that’s to win national championships, Big Ten championships.”
McGuff agrees. He said he knows Bell’s goals are bigger than just herself and said her skills combined with her team-first mindset create a special player.
“She really loves being around her teammates, and I think when you do that –– she’s more worried about that, and us winning than anything,” McGuff said.
As for the inevitable comparisons to James, Bell is more than OK with them.
“We’re pretty similar,” Bell said. “He could shoot. I can shoot. We’re good passers, very unselfish. He wants to make his teammates better, and that’s the only thing I want for my teammates.”
When all is said and done, Davis said Bell’s time at Ohio State will be just as special as her historic high school career.
“She’s going to bring a lot to the table,” Davis said. “You’re going to see her in OSU record books.”