Bell putting Ducks on his shoulders
By John Marshall
The Associated Press
GLENDALE, Ariz. — There’s Jordan Bell blocking a young Michael Jordan. Now the Oregon big man is swatting the orca from Free Willy and E.T. flying on his bike. Next up is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un eating a cookie and the comet that killed the dinosaurs.
Jordan is blocking things everywhere, at least in the minds that created the ThingsBellCouldBlock Twitter account, and its namesake is loving it.
“At first I was, like, that’s cool, they made a picture about me, but then I kept it every day, every day, more memes,” Bell said. “I think it’s crazy that someone made a fake Twitter account about me because that’s usually a fake LeBron account or a fake Steph Curry account. I never thought I’d have one and to see how many followers is crazy.”
The account started after fans began creating photos of Bell’s outstretched arm swatting away everything from Donald Trump’s hair to touching fingers with God in the Sistine Chapel.
The photo was from Oregon’s Elite Eight win over Kansas, a game in which Bell blocked eight shots to send the Ducks to the Final Four for the first time since 1939.
Bell has embraced the account in his name and his now-bigger role for Oregon.
The Ducks seemed to have their Final Four bid derailed in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, when senior forward Chris Boucher went down with a torn left ACL. The Ducks led the nation in blocked shots during the regular season and Boucher led them — along with the Pac-12 — so it seemed like a drop-off was coming.
Instead, Oregon made a few tweaks, leaned on Bell inside a little more and kept winning.
Always an intimidating force, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound junior has asserted himself even more while finding a way to avoid fouls. The Ducks need his presence at the rim, but also can’t afford to have him in foul trouble now that Boucher is out and he has done both well.
“He’s risen to the occasion,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I think he knew when Chris went down that there was going to be more pressure on him to perform. And fortunately for us, he’s handled that pressure very well.”
A top recruit out of Long Beach, California, as a high school player, Bell had an immediate impact on the Ducks. He arrived in Eugene swatting shots, finishing first in the Pac-12 with 2.69 per game while shooting 59 percent from the floor.
Bell became Oregon’s career leader in blocked shots — 147 at the time — as a sophomore in his 50th career game and blocked 84 more this season. Heading into Saturday’s Final Four game against North Carolina, Bell leads Oregon with 8.6 rebounds per game, is its fourth-leading scorer at 10.9 points and is shooting 63 percent from the field.
Bell has been at his best when the Ducks have needed him the most, picking up his play even more in the NCAA Tournament.
He has upped his scoring average to 12.5 points and his rebounding to 12.5 while becoming the first players since Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon in 1983-84 to grab at least 12 rebounds in five straight NCAA Tournament games (spanning two seasons).
“I think I’m just probably playing harder knowing that I have to do more and knowing the stage we’re on and it’s win or go home,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been playing different, I think I’ve just been doing my role better.”
Bell’s stronger role also has a nice sidelight; it allows him to block nuclear weapons, the Hindenburg, LaVar Ball (the mouthy father of UCLA’s Lonzo Ball), and even Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl.
Oh, the things Jordan can block.
Semifinals: South Carolina (26-10) vs. Gonzaga (36-1), 6:09 p.m.; North Carolina (31-7) vs. Oregon (33-5), 40 minutes after first game.