Bell-Holter returns where it started (Basketball)

June 22, 2011
Damen Bell-Holter

When current Oral Roberts University starting center Damen Bell-Holter of Hydaburg was younger, he didn’t look to the NBA for role models.

He kept his eye on the courts of Southeast Alaska.

Bell-Holter didn’t want to be like Mike, he wanted to be like Chris Bryant of Metlakatla.

“I remember seeing him when I was in eighth grade,” he told me recently. “He was a huge inspiration to me. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to be.’ ”

That memory is a huge reason the 6-foot-10 Bell-Holter returns to his old stomping grounds each summer during his break from school. As the only Alaska Native playing NCAA D1 basketball, he is eager to remind kids that they can make it big too.

“I want them to know that they have an opportunity to play at school or just go to school,” he said.

Growing up, he didn’t get the chance to go to a basketball camp on Prince of Wales Island because they didn’t exist. He didn’t want the same thing to happen to today’s kids, so he did something about it.

This is the second summer Bell-Holter has hosted local camps for kids with the help of his former prep school coach who serves as camp director. Right now he’s in Craig and in August he will host one in Ketchikan, where he graduated high school.

“It makes a big difference to know I came from what they come from,” Bell-Holter said.

On the court, he plans on making the kids work.

“My camps aren’t easy,” he said. “I want them to get better. I want them to see how tough it is. I want them to work hard and know what it takes to be a good player.”

Bell-Holter is coming off a sensational sophomore season in which he averaged a career-best 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. He bagged a double-double every four games and delivered season highs of 27 points and 17 boards.

He is the next great player in a long line from Southeast, joining current stars Carlos Boozer and Talisa Rhea of Juneau and Will Egolf of Haines.

“What’s most important to me is representing where I’m from,” Bell-Holter said.