Some people may argue that the best leaders are people who don’t have to say anything in order to make an impact. In Missouri Western’s case, one basketball player in particular has done exactly that her whole career.
Senior guard Alicia Bell first developed a hunger-driven work ethic when she started playing basketball in fourth grade, in order to impress her father.
“I didn’t have a close relationship with my dad growing up,” Bell said. “I thought it would be something to get him to really notice me, and have something for us to share.”
Bell isn’t the first athlete in her family to play at Western. She followed the path of her two uncles who both played basketball. Her aunt was even on the volleyball team. Bell was considered the team baby when she was always hanging around the team in the locker room and around campus while her aunt was playing. It wasn’t long after that, when her uncle taught her how to do a crossover. That crossover ended up being what propelled her basketball career.
“I was picked up for an AAU team, which is the most competitive basketball for girls,” Bell said. “I would go away on tournaments literally every weekend. I would go to places like Florida, Louisiana, Texas and other places. Once I went to those tournaments and saw how well I stood against the competition around the country, I really started taking basketball seriously.”
When it was time to play at the collegiate level, she decided to venture away from her home town of St. Joseph, Mo. and attend Northwest Missouri State University. Although she liked the whole situation there, it would be an injury that would make her transfer to Missouri Western.
“After tearing my ACL at Northwest and not getting to play, I just went through something that athletes go through when they get hurt,” Bell said. “I just felt lost and wanted to be home. I went to Northwest to play basketball and I wasn’t playing because of my season-ending injury.”
Tearing her right ACL at Northwest was her second season ending injury, after tearing her left ACL just two seasons before. Those two injuries combined didn’t compare to the pain she had when she gave birth to her daughter, Kamiyah.
Returning home may have been the only thing that could have made being an athlete, student and mother at the same time possible. With what Bell had to go through, she was forced to take off three years of basketball, which is enough to make most people quit.
Senior teammate Kallie Schoonover believes it’s Bell’s heart and intense work ethic that is incomparable to others and inspires her team to sacrifice everything they have on the court in order to succeed.
“She definitely sets the tone for everyone and is a difference maker,” Schoonover said. “She leads by example and sometimes it’s like, ‘Wow, she has been through so much and still plays with that much heart.’ Everyone should play that hard. She plays with more heart than any teammate could ever find or ask for.”
Schoonover isn’t the only one who sees what a special person Alicia Bell is. Western’s coach Rob Edmisson believes that athletes with that much heart are irreplaceable.
“She’s just such a hard working, dependable person,” Edmisson said. “She’s all about her team, and not about individual accolades. She’s had so much adversity in her collegiate career with raising a child, going to school full-time, playing basketball and injuries. It’s just a testament to her toughness and her character.”
After a long, tough collegiate career, Bell finally found what fighting through all the pain would mean for her future.
“I have been a basketball player since fourth grade. That’s what I identified with, that’s who I was and I know it’s what people think about when they think of me,” Bell said. “Now I am a mother. I’ll put my shoes up and use all that I have in me to be the best mom I can be for my daughter. That’s my number one priority. I love basketball and it will always be a part of my life and it made me who I am today. The last six years have been a struggle, but I know after going through everything it has prepared me to be Kamiyah’s mom.”