Amir Bell ’18, center, the Tigers’ leader in steals, has avoided fouls without losing his aggressiveness.
Beverly Schaefer
Bell ’18, high-scoring Tigers start strong in nonconference play

Amir Bell ’18 fouled out of two of his first three games for the Princeton men’s basketball team — a discouraging start for the then-freshman point guard. The growing pains were part of a season-long process: He was the only Tiger to start all 30 games last year, but foul trouble sometimes kept him off the court. 

This season, increasing Bell’s playing time, his leadership, and his influence are goals that the sophomore and his coaches share. “I expect more out of myself,” Bell said. “I’ve been through a year of college basketball. I expect to give my team more ways to win.”

November and early December brought promising results: Bell has made gains in a handful of statistical categories — including assists, steals, and three-point shooting percentage — while keeping his fouls in check. The Tigers opened the year 5–2, averaging 77 points in their first seven games.

Head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 likes how Bell has grown, and he likes the point guard’s aggressiveness, which belies his reserved nature off the court. “I’m glad he’s the one leading us,” Henderson said.

“I expect more out of myself. I’ve been through a year of college basketball. I expect to give my team more ways to win.”

Amir Bell ’18

Bell grew up admiring NBA star Jason Kidd. He got his first taste playing point guard as a lanky kid more than 10 years ago in youth leagues, for his father. “He taught me a lot and really gave me a start,” Bell said. “You could say I’m a coach’s kid. His love for the game really was passed down to me.”

Bell played as a freshman at nearby East Brunswick High. He faced stiff competition in the summers with his Team Jersey Elite AAU team, and his high school rival was anchored by Karl-Anthony Towns, the top NBA draft pick in 2015.

“You play against good competition in AAU and high school and when you get into college, you’re ready for some of the best competition in the world,” Bell said.

Last year, Bell ranked seventh in the Ivy League in assist-to-turnover ratio and averaged 8.8 points per game, despite making less than 30 percent of his three-point attempts. 

“He’s been through an entire season,” Henderson said. “He’s done everything. He’s made big shots, gotten big rebounds, turned the ball over in big moments, [and] made good passes in crucial moments.”

Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bell spent time in the weight room, adding 10 pounds to his 6-foot-4-inch frame, and worked relentlessly on his shooting. His experience has equipped him to direct a Princeton team with four returning starters and a talented freshman class.

“I feel a lot more comfortable being a leader on the team, and more comfortable in the system,” Bell said. “I know what it takes to win a basketball game and how hard it is to win.”