Just a few days after helping the Fort Hood varsity men’s basketball team claim the second place trophy at the National Military Basketball Tournament in San Antonio, one Fort Hood Soldier will begin terminal leave from the Army and head to South Carolina to start the next chapter of his life.

Spc. Joshua Bell, a supply specialist with Troop B, Pioneer Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, didn’t think he’d eventually be playing college basketball when he enlisted in the Army on March 10, 2014. He’d been playing since he was a kid, getting serious with the sport when he entered high school. Despite spending much of his time working out in the weight room of his Newport News, Virginia, high school, a college basketball career didn’t seem like it was in the cards for him.

“I didn’t get any looks coming out of high school – I didn’t have any offers or anything,” the specialist said. “And once I got into the military, I played still, but the basketball dream was sort of leaving me.”

While at Fort Hood, Bell tried out for the varsity men’s basketball team, which was then being coached by Maj. Michael Meyers. In 2016, he helped the team win its second-consecutive national title.

Once Meyers left Fort Hood for a permanent change of station, assistant coach Hosea Montague stepped up to take over as head coach. Both coaches have put much effort in getting scouts for college teams on all levels to look at the talent on the Fort Hood roster. Last year, one player accepted an offer to play for North Georgia University, an NCAA Division II program.

“Josh has the potential to become a prolific scorer, especially from the 3-point range, averaging 60 percent,” Montague said. He added that Bell is also “very coachable” and “his basketball IQ is at the DI level.”

As a 6’4” shooting guard, Bell gave the Phantom Warriors additional height advantage, the coach said. In addition to that, his stamina also had a big impact on the team the past two seasons.

“(His) endurance, averaging 30 minutes per game, running the floor in our motion offense, enabling him to slash through the middle of defenses,” Montague said. “He also averages six points on offensive rebounds.”

During this past season, Bell started thinking about going back to school and playing basketball once his enlistment period was up. His coaches, as well as coaches for other teams the Phantom Warriors played against, told him he had potential to play NCAA Division I ball.

“We played Air Force Prep (this season) and the coach there wanted me to try and come to the Air Force Academy, but I was too old,” Bell said. The coach told him he had connections at a few Division II schools he could talk to, but he really thought Bell should try for a DI program.

Bell was disappointed, even heartbroken, when he learned he wouldn’t be eligible for admission at the academy. But the advice from the coaches helped add more fuel to the flames of his dream to play college basketball.

Eventually, that hard work and determination paid off for Bell, who accepted a walk-on spot at The Military College of South Carolina, in Charleston. The Citadel, as the school is commonly known, plays in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference. Bell’s older brother is an assistant coach with the Bulldogs and helped him “get his foot in the door,” he said.

“It’s still unreal to me,” Bell said. “(Playing college basketball) was my dream since graduating high school. I still haven’t grasped the concept of it yet. I think once I get there and start working out and seeing the team, it’ll finally hit me that I reached my goal.”

He credits the coaching staff and the volunteer athletic trainers at Fort Hood for helping him achieve this dream.

“It’s all thanks to them,” he said, “for picking up the right players and knowing what to do in certain situations and how to condition ourselves to prepare for games.”

Long and hard practices that started with conditioning sessions with the trainers helped prepare him physically, he said.

“That helped me get in shape and then just playing games against other competition helped me build confidence,” he added.

Bell’s coach thinks while playing at the next level, he’ll continue to improve on his offensive skills, as well as hone his defensive abilities.

“He plays the zone very well, and will also improve on his man-to-man defense,” Montague said. “His endurance will give him an advantage over most of his teammates.”

Another advantage Fort Hood has provided Bell during his three years here is having the gyms open all the time, he said, giving him ample opportunities to spend time out on the court.

“My wife hates me because I come to the gym so much,” he joked. “Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I’m probably playing open gym ball. Then Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ve got practice. Then Saturday and Sunday mornings I’m out here. So pretty much every day.”

“She gets on me a lot about it but she understands what I’m trying to do,” he added.

At 23, Bell will likely be the oldest player on the Bulldogs’ roster. He’ll be at least 5 years older than many of his teammates. He’s also been through three years in the Army and some of his teammates will commission into service after graduation. He’s hoping to take those extra years of life experience and fill a leadership role within the team.

“When I talked to the head coach, he brought that up because I was going to be older than the guys so he expects me to be able to be in a leadership position and be able to give help when I can, trying to be a mentor basically,” Bell said. “Because I’ve been through all the life experience already and they’re coming straight out of high school.”

He’ll even be able to mentor his teammates with advice and lessons learned about life in the Army.

When Bell begins his terminal leave from the Army on Friday, he’ll spend the summer in South Carolina working out and getting prepared for the upcoming college basketball season. He’ll start classes in the fall, as a civilian student through the Citadel’s Non-Cadet Veteran Day Program, majoring in psychology. As of now, he has no plans to commission as an officer upon graduation, but he was told by his unit’s executive officer (also a Citadel graduate) that he may be able to change his mind later and complete the requirements of commission.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Bell wants to receive a master’s degree in social work and work as a high school guidance counselor.

“Just trying to help students graduate and go onto college or help them figure out what they want to do with their lives,” he said.

Despite being older than a majority of his future classmates, Bell is glad he waited on college and decided to enter the Army.

“The Army prepared me because I’m focused now,” he said. “If I would have went to college right after high school, I don’t think I would have been as focused. It taught me leadership skills, also, and just how to be an adult, honestly.”

In addition to filling the roles of student and athlete, Bell will soon be filling the role of father as he and his wife, also a U.S. Army Soldier, are expecting a bundle of joy.

“We’re trying to figure it out now,” he said of the balancing act his Family is looking at. “But she’s hopefully getting orders to (PCS to) South Carolina, so we’ll be close.”