ORU seniors Warren Niles and Damen Bell-Holter look to finish in a strong way
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 7:39 AM
The shoes tell his story:
Oral Roberts guard Warren Niles has "RIP GPA" scrawled on the back of his basketball shoes. It's shorthand for rest in peace, grandpa.
"I wanted to dedicate the season to him," Niles said, referencing a grandfather who passed away in July.
"He was probably one of my biggest fans. He supported me back at home. He watched pretty much all of my games. He always wanted to see me play and wanted to see me play professionally. When we played last year at Xavier, he got to come to that game. I know he would just be proud of me right now, what I am doing."
The numbers tell his story:
ORU center Damen Bell-Holter managed one double-double in the first 11 games of this season. He has averaged a double-double (20.4 points, 11.3 rebounds) in 16 games since.
"I just put too much pressure on myself at the beginning of the year," Bell-Holter said. "I worked really hard this offseason and I was so focused on playing well. I was overthinking things too much."
"I have just tried to focus on rebounding and being aggressive and being confident and relaxing and letting the game come to me," he said. "And that's what I have been able to do."
Here's what their stories have in common:
Niles and Bell-Holter, ORU's lone seniors, have staged a clinic on "this is how a senior should end a career."
Niles ranks 25th nationally in scoring and 27th in 3-point percentage.
Bell-Holter is 18th nationally in rebounding and 25th in double-doubles.
They'll play the final home game of their careers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, when Weber State visits the Mabee Center as part of ESPN's BracketBusters weekend.
"They have carried us this year - and I will throw Shawn (Glover) in there as well - but Warren and Damen have just had outstanding senior years," ORU coach Scott Sutton said.
"That's not always the case. A lot of times we have had guys that got to their senior years and, for whatever reason, there is pressure and they are thinking about next year and what they are going to be doing and it affects how they play. These guys have done a great job of staying focused and not worrying about where their careers will take them next year."
The farewell tour has been so robust that Niles and Bell-Holter are among player of the year candidates in the Southland Conference.
Niles has been the conference's scoring leader for much of the season and now trails Nicholls State's Fred Hunter by decimal points. Since the start of Southland play, Bell-Holter leads the league in scoring and rebounding.
"I can't say enough about them," Sutton said. "That's how seniors should go out."
Niles said he and Bell-Holter wanted to finish strong so they would be viewed as winners.
Sutton said the seniors still have a chance - four regular-season games and a conference tournament - to enhance their legacy.
"They will be fondly remembered by this staff and our fans," he said. "But a lot of people will remember them by how we finish. Sometimes that's unfair, but it's the truth. How we fare from here on out, how we do in the (conference) tournament, can elevate their status. ... They can put themselves in a special category."
The message had already been delivered to Niles, who, in a separate interview, said, "I just want to get to the NCAA Tournament so we can also be known as getting to the NCAA Tournament. Not a lot of teams here have done that."
Original Print Headline: Finishing in a strong way
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
Oral Roberts seniors Warren Niles (left) and Damen Bell-Holter have both had solid senior seasons, with Niles ranking 25th nationally in scoring and Bell-Holter 18th nationally in rebounding. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file