One of the most productive Ohio high school players ever, Kierstan Bell came to Ohio State as a five-star recruit with a resume including an unprecedented three Ms. Basketball awards and 2,833 career points.
But like the other six freshmen in the Buckeyes’ rotation, Bell has sort of been feeling her way through an up-and-down season.
Coming off consecutive Big Ten freshman of the week honors, the 6-foot-1 guard from Canton McKinley is playing a larger role — albeit off the bench — as the Buckeyes (10-6, 3-2) head to Michigan State (9-7, 2-3) on Thursday night in quest of their first three-game winning streak this season.
“I knew that all of the seven freshmen coming in were good and we’d maybe have a little bit of a time share,” Bell said. “I knew we all had different skills and would fill different roles. My main concentration is being more consistent, bringing more energy to the team and, hopefully, putting the ball in the basket.”
In just 20.1 minutes per game, Bell is averaging 10.4 points (second on the team) and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 40.8 percent from the field. In wins the past two games over Michigan and Penn State, she scored 32 points. She has started 10 games, but has found her niche as a sixth player.
“I’m not tied to any lineup,” coach Kevin McGuff said. “I will say it’s nice to have people coming in off the bench to give us a boost. That’s a positive. Kierstan’s best years are ahead of her. She’s really talented. She’s shown flashes of it, but doing it consistently is the key.
“Like every other young player who comes in off being the main person on their high school team, there’s a period of adjustment. We have a lot of players in the same situation.”
Bell remains upbeat about her role. She has an outgoing personality and brings a spark to the team in games as well as practice.
“The biggest adjustment from high school to college is the minutes,” she said. “I never came off the floor in high school. Of course, my goal is to earn the right to stay in the game longer, but I can deal with coming off the bench. The second half is always my best half. I think I can provide a spark … and some energy to the team when we need it the most.”
Freshman guard Jacy Sheldon of Dublin Coffman said all seven freshmen, and to some extent the three sophomores, are in the same shoes as Bell.
“I don’t think any of us knew what to expect coming in to the season,” she said. “We’re still learning how to play together, to figure it all out and adapt to each other’s strengths. It’s fun to watch the process come together.”