Joey Bell helped his team win two back-to-back state titles, scored more than 1,500 points in his high school career and had his jersey number retired this season. But his greatest accomplishment came Thursday morning when the Highlander basketball player penned his name to a basketball scholarship, sending the future Bobcat back to Milledgeville where he and his family lived for eight years before moving to Hinesville.
"I’ve dreamed about signing a college scholarship my whole life," Bell said. "I’m excited to play basketball at the next level. I’m ready to go there and continue my academics as well as play."
Bell said the four-time Peach Belt Conference winning basketball team’s coach, Terry Sellers, sold him on the school during a visit where the coach told Bell he would make him the best player he could be.
"It’s a tremendous feeling," Bell’s father Robert said. "We are extremely happy and proud of him to have the opportunity to play college ball. Only 2 percent of athletes that play go on to play in college. So to be in that number is definitely a privilege and a blessing for him."
Robert Bell said returning to Milledgeville will give the family a chance to visit acquaintances in their old neighborhood and watch their son play on the Bobcat hard court.
The court is a familiar stomping ground for Bell since the Highlanders played inside GCSU’s Bobcat Stadium for both of their state title wins against Bethesda.
"I’m glad that it finally happened for him," Highlander varsity coach Darrell West said. "Now we can add his picture to the wall at St. James with the name of the college so everyone can see it."
The St. James Sports Center is the Highlanders home court. It’s also home to Bell’s summer league AAU team, the Coastal Crew Rebels, which is under the direction of coach Ernie Walthour.
"We are very excited to have Joey Bell playing for the Rebels," Walthour said. "A lot for our younger players want to be like Joey and with him going to college he is an excellent role model and the right path to follow for our youth."
It’s the first scholarship to be signed by an FPCA student since the school’s inception in 1975 according to Head Mistress Amy Swindell.
"We are just very proud to finally see one of our students finally sign a scholarship," she said. "I’ve had the privilege of knowing Joey since the eighth grade and he’s an all-around wonderful guy. He is very dedicated to the school, his athletics and his friends. We are just honored."
Bell said he owes his scholarship to the staff and coaches at FPCA. He said being at FPCA helped him develop as a person
"I got to play around good basketball players and great coaches," he said.
Sample list of Bell’s accomplishments:
2006 Team MVP, 2007 All-Region Team, 2007 Team MVP, 2007 CFCA All-Tournament Team, 2008 All-Region Team, 2008 All-State Team, 2008 WTOC Player of the Week, 2008 Honorable Mention Pick to the All-Greater Savannah Area Basketball Team, 2008 Team MVP, 2008 Faith Baptist All-Tournament Team, 2008 CFCA All-Tournament and Tournament MVP, 2008 State Title Team, More than 1500 points in his career thus far, 2009 WTOC Player of the Week and his jersey was retired in January..