February 17, 2012

Conquering the Battle: The Lamonte Bell Story

-By Greensboro College sophomore, Woody Wilder

The doctor visits have ended. Horrible migraines have subsided. Lamonte Bell is loving life as an NCAA student-athlete--but the scars are still there.

Bell is a normal college student, but during his childhood, the word "normal" was non-existent.

At the age of 3, Bell had to have surgery on his skull. His head began growing outwards instead of inwards, and the outlook was bleak.

"The doctors said I was supposed to die at the age of 10," Bell remembers. Eighteen years later at the age of 21, Bell has beaten his doctor's projection.

It was an uphill battle for the youngster in Salisbury.

"I had to learn everything over. My alphabet, my numbers, a lot of stuff."

Even more difficult for Lamonte, from age three to age twelve he suffered through headaches and grew sick and tired of all the medication he was taking. Long round trips to Duke for doctors appointments added to the hardships.

Perhaps even more frustrating--sports were off limits.

"I started playing sports in middle school and football was off limits and even basketball was off limits. Anything with contact. [Tennis and Track] were the first sports I started playing."

Precautions had to be taken whenever Lamonte stepped foot on the playground or on the hardwood. All physical activities required the use of a helmet. In middle school, this was a near social disaster.

"Yeah coming up there was a lot of pickin' [sic], but until you knew my struggle or what I've been through, you couldn't judge me."

No one is judging Lamonte now.

"Yeah, there were times that I cried. It is hard being that young and suffering through a lot [but] overcoming it at the same time, I was relieved to be able to play a sport."

His journey to Greensboro College began when a friend suggested that he should try out for the 8th grade basketball team.

"I just wanted to play. A friend told me to come out and play because he said I could make the team. I told him I'd try and I made it."

Bell began to catch onto the game quickly. After his middle school days were over, he moved onto North Rowan High School under the tutelage of varsity head coach Kelly Everhart.

Everhart recounts, "The first time I remember seeing Lamonte play was our JV team.  He was a wide bodied kid for his age but the thing that made me take notice was his effort.  Even from the beginning, you could tell that he had the desire to be all that he could be."

Lamonte began to progress up the ladder at North Rowan moving up to the varsity squad as a sophomore.

"Lamonte was a role player and he understood that for our team to be successful he did not have to be the leading scorer but he had to play tough defense and he had to rebound every time a shot went up."

During his three year span at North Rowan, Bell touched the hearts of many individuals.

"When he was at North Rowan he was loved by all. He had a great big smile on his face and was constantly talking and having a good time."

Everhart was touched as well.

"During [the 21 years I have coached] I had many enjoyable moments but Lamonte will always be one of the players that I remember."

And remember him he did. Mr. Everhart had nothing but rave comments on Lamonte Bell.

Upon graduation, there was one problem for Lamonte. He was hardly being recruited. The only school to get in touch with Bell was Stillman College in Alabama.

Bell decided not to head south and instead enrolled at Livingstone College in his hometown of Salisbury. While at Livingstone he competed on the track team, but one thing was missing--basketball.

After one season at Livingstone, he decided to transfer to Greensboro College. One day, men's basketball coach Bryan Galuski received a telephone call. On the other end was Lamonte Bell.

"I received a phone call from Lamonte with interest to come to Greensboro College and I had no idea who [he] was. I remember him asking me 'What about basketball?' and I told him you'll have an opportunity to try out."

Coach Galuski had never seen the kid play, but told him about the open tryout the team was holding. Tryouts came and passed. Lamonte had made the team.

When asked about his past and if luck was on his side during his whirlwind childhood Bell answered quickly.

"I feel like to put on a college jersey at any school is a benefit that people have opportunities to play in a college atmosphere. I wouldn't call it lucky, I feel like I was blessed with the talent to play and I play. I do it day in and day out."

An honest answer from an honest man.

His first year was tough.

"I was playing behind a lot of people. I wasn't recruited. I was a walk-on. I felt accomplished though. I made it."

Like at North Rowan, Lamonte has embraced his role on the team.

"I know I have a certain role that the coaches want me to accomplish...play good defense and grab rebounds. Be a role player."

His coaching staff feels the same way.

"He knows what he needs to do...rebound the basketball, defend and if an opportunity exists where he can get a bucket here or there within in the context of our offense he can do that."

On the court, Lamonte Bell is a dream player for the coaching staff. Off the court, he's even better.

Coach Galuski echos former North Rowan head coach Kelly Everhart's assessment of Lamonte away from the confines of Hanes Gymnasium.

"He is a great student-athlete here at Greensboro College. You don't have to worry about [him]. He's going to put forward maximum effort. The guys like him. He's got that kind of personality that is attractive to his teammates and the community."

Lamonte has quite a few more games wearing the green and white. Once his senior night--which is still a few years off--comes, he'll be close to ending days of his basketball career.  He doesn't see his life revolving around basketball once he leaves Greensboro College.

"I want be a chef. I'm gonna go to culinary art school after this."

If his determination on the basketball court carries over to the kitchen, watch out Rachel Ray!

We all want miracles to happen in our lives. For Lamonte and his family, they've already experienced one.

"The doctors were surprised at how far I've came [and] are shocked that I'm 21.I feel like I am a walking miracle. So does my family"

The harshest moments in life have passed Lamonte Bell. He's enjoying college and is in perfect health. Battles are ever present in life. Anyone who knows Lamonte will agree with his current coach, "[Lamonte] has conquered that battle."