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By Dan Brood 





Sofia Bell.

It all just seems to go well together. It’s been that way for a long, long time, and there appears to be no immediate end in sight.

Oh, there’s one more element that can be added to the equation — fun.

That’s because when Bell, who now wears the green and gold of Jesuit High School as a senior on the Crusaders girls team, is playing basketball, there’s a good chance that she’s winning, and that she’s definitely enjoying herself.

“Yeah, I’m having fun,” the 6-foot-1 Bell said following a Jesuit team practice last week. “I just love playing.”

In addition to having fun, Bell, in her first season playing for Jesuit, has made a big impact on an already-strong Crusaders team, helping the squad jump out to a 15-2 start, including a 6-0 mark in Metro League play. 

“She’s a Swiss Army knife,” Jesuit head coach Jason Lowery said. “She’s a 6-1 shooting, slashing, passing, defending and rebounding athlete who can play and who can think. She’s the package.”

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While the talented, versatile guard is shining for Jesuit now, she’ll also be wearing green and gold (well, officially, yellow) in the future — in November she signed a national letter of intent to play college basketball at the University of Oregon, fulfilling a longtime goal.

“It meant a lot. It was definitely exciting,” Bell said of signing with the Ducks. “It was always a goal of mine to play Pac-12 basketball. To have that be fulfilled is cool.”

If that weren’t enough excitement, there’s more — much more. 

Last week, Bell was selected to play in the 2023 McDonald’s All-American Game, a contest featuring 24 of the top seniors from around the country. The game will take place March 28 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

“That’s super exciting,” Bell said. “I grew up watching (South Salem’s) Evina Westbrook and (Mountainside graduate) Cameron Brink, and they were selected, so being able to accomplish something like that is pretty cool.” 

Starring at Jesuit, set to play at the University of Oregon, earning All-American status — that’s quite a list of basketball achievements already for Bell.

But she’s also more than just an ultra-talented basketball player. Just ask Lowery.

“She is an amazing player, and a better person,” he said. “She comes from a solid family. Her mom and dad are awesome. And a lot of it is internal. She’s competitive and has a high demand-level of herself, high expectations. She’s self-motivated. She has all of the things a quality athlete has and that quality people are.” 

That amazing player, and better person, who already has an impressive list of achievements and accolades, is far from satisfied.

“I can work on everything. Every aspect of my game, I can improve on,” Bell said. “I think I can work on my mid-range game. Ball handling is something to always work on. Shooting, shooting off the catch, shooting off the dribble, shooting on the run. I’m going to keep working hard.”

Growing up with basketball

It probably can be safely said that Bell has always been destined to play basketball — and play at the University of Oregon.

It’s literally in her blood, as her dad, Greg Bell, played point guard for the University of Oregon men’s team in the 1980s.

“My dad always put a ball in my hand when I was young. I didn’t start playing until I was 5 or 6, but I grew up around basketball,” Sofia Bell said. “My dad played (at the University of Oregon) and then he continued playing, in different rec leagues and stuff, so I just grew up watching him play.”

There’s actually a photo of a very young Sofia Bell, adorned in Oregon Ducks colors, holding a basketball that is nearly as big as she is.

“I think I was 1 or 2 in that photo,” she said with a laugh. 

While her father, who graduated from Roosevelt High School before playing at the University of Oregon, has been a huge basketball inspiration for her, Bell has had other influencing factors in her life — one of them being Gonzaga University men’s basketball coach Mark Few.

“Mark Few and my dad were college roommates,” she said. “They’ve been best friends since after college. I consider him my Uncle Mark.”

Television also has played its part.

“Probably when I was in middle school, we got the Pac-12 Network, and that’s where I started watching a lot more basketball,” Bell said. “Watching the rise of the Pac-12 and the West Coast was cool. Watching players like (former University of Oregon star) Sabrina (Ionescu) compete and go on to the next level inspired me.”

Choosing basketball

While she might have always been following a basketball path, the athletic Bell shined at other sports as well.

“I played tennis, I did track, volleyball, all sorts of stuff,” said Bell, who played for the Jesuit girls tennis team last spring.

But there came a time when she felt she needed to make a choice. 

“I think it was the summer between seventh grade and eighth,” she said. “I was doing club track and club basketball at the same time, and it was just getting to be too much at once, so I knew I had to cut back and choose one sport to be my primary, so that’s when I chose basketball.”

Good choice?

“Yeah, it was a good decision,” Bell said with a smile.

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And did basketball come easy?

“Yeah, I’d say so,” Bell said, still smiling. “I started playing a bunch of sports when I was young and actually didn’t want to play basketball for a bit. But I think in first grade or so, I started playing. And I played with all boys until fifth grade. Yeah, I love to compete.”

Now, in addition to being a competitor, Bell sees herself as a basketball player who, while still working to get better, offers a lot of value on the court.

“I’d say I’m kind of a combo guard,” she said. “I can play the 1, I can play the 2. I can play the wing positions. I think I can guard 1 through 4. I think I’m a versatile guard, and I try to do what it takes to win.”

Becoming a Crusader

Bell began her high school basketball career at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland.

She transferred to Jesuit in January of 2022, but because of OSAA rules, she could not play in games for the Crusaders during the remainder of the 2021-22 season, her junior year. 

“It was hard to sit out,” she said. “Every athlete knows that if you get injured and have to sit out, it’s tough to do that. But I had a lot of fun. I like watching sports, so to be able to watch was fun.”

But Bell did more than just watch.

She got to practice with the squad, and she learned a lot about her new team and her new teammates.

“I definitely learned a lot,” she said. “I learned how the team plays, what the primary goals are, and just being around that helped a lot.”

“We were lucky that she came last year,” Lowery said. “She’s been with us almost a year to the day. She spent half the season with us, practicing with the team, every single minute. She did everything except play. That allowed her to kind of visualize, find her role, and see where she will be. Then, when she was able to get on the court with us this summer, things just kind of flowed.”

Last year, Bell was able to watch the Jesuit team, led by Avery Edwards, Kendra Hicks, Tessa Randall and Emma Sixta (who are all part of this season’s squad), among others, qualify for the Class 6A state tournament.

That all added fuel to the fire for Bell’s senior season.

“I was definitely more motivated. The team made it far, to the Chiles Center. That definitely helped motivate me and showed me what I could bring to the team,” Bell said. “Spending time with the team last year definitely helped, and then playing summer ball with the team in June and getting good practices in helped with bonding and chemistry.”

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Motivation, bonding, chemistry — success.

The veteran, talented Jesuit squad holds the No. 2 ranking (behind Clackamas) in the latest Class 6A coaches poll

“It’s been a ball,” Lowery said of the 2022-23 season. “This whole group of seniors have been great. And, luckily for all of us, she just fits in seamlessly.”

That might be an understatement. 

Bell, who is No. 26 in the espnW national high school girls basketball rankings for the class of 2023, definitely hasn’t disappointed in her first season with the Crusaders. In the team’s first 14 games, Bell averaged 19.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.6 steals per contest, while also playing stifling defense. 

She scored a season-high 36 points, going 7 for 8 from 3-point range, in a 60-29 Metro League win at Mountainside on Jan. 13.

“I kind of view myself as a combo guard, with the ability to push the pace up the court,” Bell said of her role on the team. “I try to find teammates, attack in transition, shoot — I try to do everything. I’ve always tried my best to lead by example, whether that’s work ethic or something like that.”

“She’s adaptable, and what we do is what we do, and she’s fit in nicely,” Lowery said.

When she’s on the sideline, Bell also always makes sure to cheer on her teammates who are on the floor.

“When I’m on the court, I appreciate teammates cheering me on, so I want to reciprocate that,” she said.

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Despite all of the impressive stats and wins, something totally different has been Bell’s favorite moment of the season.

“We had a fun team retreat at the beach at the beginning of the year,” she said. “We’ve just also had a lot of funny moments.”

“Larry Brown always says, ‘Play the game the right way.’ She plays the game the right way,” Lowery said.

That means, of course, putting the team first — and Bell likes talking about the Jesuit team.

“It’s going good,” she said of the Crusaders’ season. “We’re a little over the halfway point, and I’m having a lot of fun. We’re getting better, and we’re trying to continue to get better as we move into the second half of league and then playoffs.”

While Jesuit has high aspirations for the rest of the season, reaching those will be anything but easy, as the state boasts a good number of powerhouse teams, including defending state champion Beaverton, Clackamas, Barlow, Benson, South Medford and Tualatin, just to name a few. 

There is also a strong group of standout players at the 6A level, including Clackamas sophomore Jazzy Davidson (ranked No. 1 for the class of 2025), Beaverton’s Zoe Borter and Lainey Spear, Barlow’s Kennedie Shuler and Annie Koenig, and South Medford’s Donovyn Hunter. 

“I think the competition in the state is at a really high level,” Bell said. “I don’t know what happened to create so much talent in the state at this time, but it’s good. Yeah, it pushes us all to get better. Having those players around to compete against and practice with is just cool. I think it’s really good for girls basketball. More young girls come to games, and then they want to play, and that’s a good thing.”

Oregon is the one

While Bell might have been destined to play college basketball at the University of Oregon, that certainly wasn’t her only option of where to continue her scholastic basketball career — and, wow, what impressive options she had.

“I had a list,” she said. “My top eight were Oregon, Stanford, Gonzaga, Oregon State, USC, California, Notre Dame and Washington.” 

But in the end, her choice was to follow in her dad’s footsteps and become a Duck.

“Just growing up here and watching how the team played was just something I wanted to be a part of,” she said. “Getting to spend time on campus, my dad goes down there often, definitely helped, and seeing the rise of the program.”

Bell added that she’s ready to take on the challenge of playing at the next level.

“I’m going to need to get stronger, get faster,” she said. “Just come ready to compete.”

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Some of her future Oregon teammates gave her a pleasant surprise this season.

On Dec. 16, when the Crusaders played a nonleague game at Willamette High School in Eugene, a handful of University of Oregon players, as well as the Ducks coaches, showed up at the contest.

“That was cool. It was super exciting,” Bell said. “I didn’t know they were coming until right before the game. It was fun to see them. I got to say ‘hi’ after the game. I think it was Chance (Gray), Grace (VanSlooten), Kennedy (Basham) and Te-Hina (Paopao), and the coaching staff, as well.”

Bell likely impressed her future teammates that night, as she scored 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while also having eight rebounds, six steals and three assists in a 68-38 Jesuit victory.

“That just shows the culture that the program has. It meant a lot,” Bell said of the Oregon players’ appearance. “It was really special. And, yeah, we played well.” 

All-American girl

Bell was hoping, and she thought she had an opportunity, to get selected to play in the 2023 McDonald’s All-American Game.

“I wasn’t sure,” she said. “I knew there was a chance, with the rankings and stuff. But it was definitely a surprise.”

The rosters were announced Jan. 24 during ESPN’s NBA Today show

But Bell wasn’t sitting in front of the TV or staring at her phone to see if she was selected.

“It (the announcement) was being aired on ESPN, at around noon, but I was in class,” she said. “So, during lunch, I noticed that I was getting tons of texts. I got ‘congrats’ from my coach and from the coaches at Oregon.”

The exhilaration then set in.

“I was just really happy,” Bell said. “I called my mom (Claire) right away. She was super excited. She knew it was something I wanted, and she understands the significance of it.”

As for the March 28 East vs. West game, Bell, being the competitor she is, isn’t satisfied with just being there. 

“I’m super excited for the game,” she said. “There’s four players from my club team (Breya Cunningham, Jada Williams and Amanda Muse are the other three) that were selected. We want to win. We’re representing the West.” 

A bright future

There’s a lot of basketball excitement ahead for Sofia Bell.

For right now, she’s looking at the near future and some state championship aspirations for the Crusaders.

“We want to make a run in the playoffs,” she said. “Of course, we have to try to take care of business in league. And the competition in the state is better than ever, so we just have to try to keep getting better.”

But you can’t blame Bell for looking beyond that, to her future at the University of Oregon. And, likely to no one’s surprise, she’s striving for big things. 

“I just want to win at the next level, win a Pac-12 championship and compete for a spot in the Final Four,” she said. “I want to compete and keep getting better — and win more rings.”

“She’s going to be successful at anything she decides to put her energy into, and right now, that’s being a high-level basketball player,” Lowery said. “So, I think Coach (Kelly) Graves and the Ducks are getting a really, really good one.”

So, more green, gold, basketball, winning and, of course, Sofia Bell.