Hydaburg's Damen Bell-Holter isn't just a basketball player for Oral Roberts. He's also a blogger eager to share his life experiences.
People can find his blog at humbleexperience.wordpress.com, where they will find posts on everything from Bell-Holter's training regimen to his team's reaction to big games to personal revelations about growing up in Southeastern Alaska. Next week he plans to write a post about his experience coming home to play in the Great Alaska Shootout.
"When I started posting all these blog posts and everything, I was getting a ton of feedback, like, 'I didn't know you did this, I didn't know you were capable of all these types of things,' " Bell-Holter said.
"I guess it's stepping out of my element by opening up to people."
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound senior is averaging 7.8 points and nine rebounds as a starter with the Golden Eagles while studying public relations at the Division I university. He wants kids in his hometown and other small towns everywhere to know opportunities to achieve their dreams do exist. In a July blog post titled "Just another statistic" Bell-Holter revealed some of the problems he witnessed while growing up:
"I grew up in a small, small town called Hydaburg and this town consisted of about 350 people growing up. This town was and still is infested with drug and alcohol addiction along with a good portion of my island called Prince of Wales island. While I was growing up, I saw people constantly drunk, wives being beat, my parents getting into physical disputes because of alcohol and kids getting drunk and high at the young ages of 12. I saw some of my best friends doing drugs and drinking at young ages. I saw lives taken because of suicide and drunk driving. I slowly grew away from these types of behaviors and focused on basketball. I was always at the gym playing with the adults and being cussed out or being threatened because that's how it was growing up there. I wouldn't have it any other way. I know there's people out there that have it worse then me. This is simply for the people that are curious to know what I came from. I never had positive role models to look up to consistently."
The blog has received thousands of hits and lots of positive feedback, Bell-Holter said, which is why he plans to continue the endeavor for years to come. The blog started as something he did for a class as a sophomore and originally focused on basketball, but it was his inclusion of more personal posts that really helped the blog take off.
Bell-Holter, 22, gained national television exposure last season when he hit a game-winning 3/4-court shot at the buzzer to beat Arkansas Little Rock. The amazing shot was a one-handed heave that required Bell-Holter to adjust his body in mid-air and it was highlighted on ESPN's SportsCenter. Bell-Holter gained a lot of new followers on his Facebook and Twitter pages after that, he said.
"Kids will write me on Facebook and I do my best to write back, because I want to be a role model for kids," he said.
Bell-Holter plans to pursue a career in basketball when he finishes with college, whether playing professionally in Europe or finding another way to contribute.
"I want to coach and train players," he said. "I'll be happy doing something I love for a living."
The last two summers, Bell-Holter has held basketball camps in Craig, which is about a 40-minute drive from Hydaburg. He said the turnout has been great, with about 100 kids showing up each time. He plans to continue with the camps.
His blogging has also opened the door for speaking appearances in Tulsa, Okla., where Oral Roberts is located, as well as Canada and Alaska.
Bell-Holter had never been to the Shootout before this week, but said he used to follow it from home when he was a kid. When he was recruited by Oral Roberts, he told coaches he wanted to play in the Shootout, and coach Scott Sutton said the Golden Eagles are in Anchorage this week because of Bell-Holter.
"It was a no-brainer," Sutton said Thursday after the team's first-round win over Loyola Marymount. "We talked to the team today about how important this tournament was to Damen."
So far, the trip back to Alaska has been everything Bell-Holter hoped.
"It's been a great experience as soon as I got off the plane," he said. "People have been approaching me here and it's just awesome how welcoming people are."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS