When the Boston Celtics call, you drop everything.
Just ask Damen Bell-Holter of the Southeast Alaska town of Hydaburg, who was in Germany about to begin his professional basketball career when the NBA team called his agent and invited the former Oral Roberts University star to training camp next month.
“My agent said I was on their list of guys they wanted to bring in,” Bell-Holter told me. “It’s really exciting. It’s a huge opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. Just that they knew my name is pretty cool.”
Bell-Holter, 22, was going to play in Italy before the team pulled its offer and he landed with a different team in Germany. Then the Celtics called and made an offer he couldn’t refuse. Playing in the NBA is every player’s dream.
“This is what I want to do,” he said.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward grew up rooting for the Celtics because Kevin Garnett is one of his favorite players. However, Garnett is now with the Brooklyn Nets, so there is an open spot at power forward. Bell-Holter would like nothing more than to fill it.
“Growing up, KG was my guy,” he said. “Even though he’s not there, going to training camp with a bunch of guys I’ve watched on TV is still really cool.”
Bell-Holter averaged a career-best 15.5 points and 9.4 rebounds last season at Oral Roberts University. Other highlights included him scoring career-high 35 points and becoming the NCAA’s first 20-20 man, with 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game.
He is the best big man from Alaska since Carlos Boozer of Juneau came out of Duke and starred in the NBA.
Still, there is no guarantee Bell-Holter will make the roster just because he got invited to training camp. He going in with an open mind, hoping the Celtics give him a fair shake.
“I’m just going to go out there and do what I can,” he said.
Before he makes the trek to Boston, though, Bell-Holter came home to Southeast Alaska to visit family and friends at Ketchikan High School, the same gym where he dominated opponents back in the day. He’s come a long way since then.
“I just needed to clear my head,” he said. “No place is better to do that than home.”
Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.