Vidalia’s Bell provides leadership to turn program around

Published 12:52 am Monday, January 5, 2015

Vidalia High School’s Tierra Bell takes a shot against Tensas High School. Bell has risen to be a leader for the team. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Vidalia High School’s Tierra Bell takes a shot against Tensas High School. Bell has risen to be a leader for the team. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

ViDALIA — Having his team on the court for the start of practice is an old concern for Vidalia girls head coach Fred Marsalis.

Instead of waiting until 3:30 p.m., roughly 20 minutes after school lets out, Marsalis can walk into the gym at 3:15 p.m., finding his team running laps around the gym floor and practicing free throws. The catalyst for this change is his senior leader Tierra Bell.

Bell not only gets her team to practice on time, but she also leads by example on the court, relaying information and providing the leadership needed to turn a program around.

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“That’s what you have to have on the floor,” Marsalis said. “I remember when we won the state championship in 1979 (with Vidalia boys), that’s one of the things we had. We had a kid on the floor that made a difference, Kevin Mayes.”

With Bell at the helm, the Vidalia girls have already eclipsed their win total in 2013-14, just 11 games into the season. With a 5-6 record, the Lady Vikings have won one more game than they did all last season, and Marsalis credits the culture change to his team buying into working hard. Of course, he never had to worry about Bell putting forth the effort, and her work ethic is mirrored by her fellow teammates.

“(The underclassmen) look up to you, so what you do, they’ll do,” Bell said. “You have to lead them on the right path.”

Bell has gone through quite the transformation herself. At the beginning of her career, she was a guard, put in the position because she was one of the few girls who could handle the ball. Breaking a press was and still is her greatest attribute to the team, but now that she’s a senior, she’s learning how to move to a forward position, trying to dominate the game inside and outside of the paint.

“Going into my junior year, I was gradually moving down to try to play defense,” Bell said. “I never would shoot. I’m starting to shoot a little more now.”

Despite Bells’ reluctance to pull the trigger on the floor, she’s led the Lady Vikings in scoring year in and year out. One of the keys to her success is her ability to keep learning, to keep trying new things she watches other women do. In her downtime, she tries to catch a women’s college basketball game, just so she can pick up a few moves to emulate in practice before showing them off in a game.

“As a girl, I know if they can do it, I can do it,” Bell said. “I do it in practice before I do it in the game to make sure.”

So far this season, Bell is dropping nearly 13 points a game for the Lady Vikings. As good as she’s been, Marsalis said he’s never surprised by her performance.

“That’s just Tierra, and we expect her to go out there and perform in every game we play in,” Marsalis said.