Deuce Bello’s athleticism stands out

Coach Kim Anderson plans on using Bello in a number of positions.

Deuce Bello is sick and tired of waiting.

Five hundred seventy-four days have passed since his last college basketball game, a win in the National Invitational Tournament championship against Iowa. Over 30,000 hours, more than 820,000 minutes, nearly 50 million seconds — no matter how you calculate it, a year and a half just doesn’t do it justice.

“It felt like ten years,” Bello said.

After transferring from Baylor following the 2012-2013 season, Bello sat out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. A shin injury during his sophomore season at Baylor also kept him out of practicing for much of his first year after transferring to Mizzou.

Wednesday will mark his return to NCAA basketball, as the Tigers face William Jewell at the Hearnes Center, and Bello will put on the Tiger uniform for the first time in a real competition. His excitement was evident Monday at practice, as he joked with teammates and talked to numerous reporters. He has butterflies in his stomach.

“It’s going to be nerve-wracking at first,” Bello said. “I’ve been waiting for this for over a year, so I’m ready.”

Coach Kim Anderson has used some of that time to figure out how to utilize Bello, and said he plans to make use of the redshirt junior’s superior athleticism to play multiple positions on the court — specifically shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

Anderson praised Bello’s rebounding and slashing ability and said he hopes to work Bello into the multiple positions both in practice and game situations.

“He’s a guy without a position,” Anderson said. “But he’s a guy who can make things happen.”

Bello’s athleticism is what sets him apart on a Mizzou team looking for go-to guys. Sophomore point guard Wes Clark repeatedly mentioned Bello’s strength of getting to the rim and drawing fouls to get to the foul line.

Clark compared Bello to NBA veteran Trevor Ariza, a small forward for the Houston Rockets, noting Bello’s athleticism and amount of courage in drawing contact.

What stands out most to Clark, though, is Bello’s vertical.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a player that could jump as high as Deuce,” Clark said.

Bello averaged just 2.4 points per game as a guard his sophomore year at Baylor. Attracted to Mizzou by former head coach Frank Haith and current assistant Tim Fuller, the sophomore packed up and headed to mid-Missouri for a chance to play under Haith.

Haith’s departure to Tulsa set Bello back, though Fuller’s decision to stay in Columbia as part of Anderson’s staff was important for Bello to still feel at home, he said.

“We have a great coaching staff,” Bello said. “And they kept coach Fuller on the staff, so that was a big reason why I stayed.”

Over the past year, Bello said he’s had his ups and downs in his game, but an extra emphasis he’s placed on defense will prove to be the tipping point in whether he plays big minutes this year for the Tigers.

Anderson complimented Bello’s quickness in rebounding and reaction time on defense. Bello hasn’t proven himself as a top defender, but Anderson said he thinks he’s on his way.

“We’ll continue to work him defensively,” Anderson said. “I think he can be a really good defender, but I don’t think he’s ever had to be.”

That defensive effort may come in handy Wednesday during the Tigers’ game against William Jewell. Bello has waited 574 days for it.

It felt like ten years for Bello.

Clark can’t even imagine.

“Being out for a week or two weeks is too much for me,” Clark said. “So I understand that years, man, that could be crazy.”

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