BOWLING GREEN – Paige Bellman is having an off night.
Against Bowling Green Dec. 17, the Detroit Mercy freshman struggles early to score and uncharacteristically misses a couple of inside shots. The Columbus Grove product contributes by grabbing two rebounds and recording a steal but there is definitely something off on this night.
By the second half, Bellman is on the bench nursing a quad pull that occurred during the first half and Detroit Mercy head coach Bernard Scott sits her primarily for precautionary reasons.
Although this is a minor setback in the Bellman’s journey into Division I basketball the upbeat Bellman remains optimistic about her future. Consider that a year ago, Bellman was sidelined with a torn ACL and had to miss her senior year, she is extremely happy to playing the game she loves and the support she received during her year off.
Even though her night was cut short, she is touched that her family, friends, fans and former teammates are in attendance to cheer her on.
“It was just so heartwarming honestly,” Bellman said. “ I was so proud to be back here and even though I did not play that much because of what happened I was so happy they were here to watch our team and watch we have put since the beginning of the summer.”
From the start of the off season, Bellman, who had signed her junior year to play with Detroit Mercy, looked forward to the challenges of playing at the Division I level and admits the transition was tough.
Bellman added she was anxious to get back on the court but also realized playing at Detroit Mercy was a whole different world from her Columbus Grove days where she excelled.
“It was really hard at first because of the speed of the game and then picking up all the school work and just managing all those things but after the first semester it has become a lot easier for me because I know how to stay on top of things,” Bellman said. “I just wanted to do what was important to the team. I didn’t single myself out in terms of goals I just wanted to do what the coaches really needed me to do as freshman.”
By the time the season was ready to begin Bellman had worked hard to earn a spot in the starting lineup.
“I deserved it,” Bellman said. “I put in all the time getting back and just working hard on the court in practice against the older girls.”
While this may sound a tad cocky, those who know Bellman know it comes from confidence. But while it took confidence to snare a starting spot, ironically it is the one thing Bellman said she needs to continue to work on at this level.
And it is not confidence in her ability but confidence in her inside game against some of the best talent in the nation.
“I am working on my confidence around the post and the perimeter and just becoming more comfortable out there because in my high school career my back was to the basket,” Bellman said.
The Titan forward showed early she was ready for the big stage after grabbing 29 rebounds in the Titans’ first three games, highlighted by snaring 11 caroms against Ohio State in her second game of her young career.
Through her first nine games, Bellman was averaging 5.9 points a game and 6.7 rebounds a contest.
Scott said Bellman has been a great asset to the team.
“I like her leadership skills,” the Titan head coach said. “She is one of our better leaders despite being a freshman. She has done well on the basketball court as far as rebounding and things of that nature and is in the top of the league in rebounding and steals. She has given us exactly what we have wanted.
Scott added no one is going to outwork Bellman on and off the court.
“She is a lady that works hard and she is the anchor of our defense,” Scott said. “
Bellman added that she revels in facing great competition and playing at a high level and said even though the Titans would lose to Bowling Green, she watched as her team rallied from two 9-point deficits to make it a close game at the end.
“It is crazy (the competition) but it is so much fun,” Bellman said. “For example, tonight we were down 19 down twice and we came back and any it is just like any game can be turned in into that and any one can win on any night so it is just a lot of fun.”
Team confidence is also something Bellman and her teammates are working on. Detroit Mercy are 2-9 and like the Bowling Green loss, the Titans are struggling to close games out and find the confidence to win.
Bellman remains optimistic the Titans can turn things around as they prepare for Horizon League action.
“I think we are going to come out strong and we know what to expect,” Bellman said. “We are capable of doing good things and have a successful season in the Horizon League.”
For Bellman her personal goals are simple.
“Personally I just want to make the big shots when my team needs me to and then just keep playing hard,” she said.