D’Andre Bell took a few minutes to call me on Tuesday afternoon from Los Angeles, where he’s rehabbing following surgery to correct a spinal condition.
He was cleared to return to Georgia Tech’s basketball team by his doctor, and coach Paul Hewitt announced Bell’s return on Tuesday.
Here’s a question-and-answer session with Bell:
AJC: This will sound odd, but were you happier to get a clean bill of health, or happier knowing that you were going to get play basketball again?
Bell: Of course I was looking the most forward to successful health, whether basketball was there or not. I look it as a step-by-process. Even luckier that I’ll get to play.
AJC: With your return, and depending upon what Gani [Lawal] decides, and with the freshman class coming in, how excited are you about this season?
Bell: I’m very excited. I’m always a guy that plays basketball. It’s my first love. I’ve grown very, very fond of Georgia Tech. Happy to do it for them one more year.
AJC: When or how did you hear you were cleared? Was it by phone or were you at the doctor’s office?
Bell: I was at the doctor’s office, went through a checkup or two. Had an MRI done on my neck. Everything turned out positive. He shook my hand and said you’ll be cleared. You’ve passed all the tests. You say you feel well.
I don’t see any reason for you not to continue on with your career.
AJC: Did a part of you think that you wouldn’t hear those words, ‘You’ll be cleared?’
Bell: Through the whole process any individual’s minds tend to play tricks on them. I tried to stay as optimistic as I can. I’m a believer in speaking things into existence. That’s what I believe happened here.
AJC: What was your reaction when the doctor told you that?
Bell: I was relieved and scared at the same time. I’m so ready and excited. Now I feel like I have a lot weight on my shoulders. It’s my last year, last time to prove I can put a banner up. Prove that I’m good enough to make it to the next level. Not that I’m scared, it’s that I’m anxious. It’s the last go round and I have a lot of work to put in because I had to sit down for seven, eight months.
AJC: How far away are you from being in game shape?
Bell: A bit of work to do. Cause game shape, what I have learned is I can do all the conditioning, but until you play a couple of games you aren’t going to be in game shape.
AJC: How hard was last year on you, having to not only sit out, but to see things happen not the way most expected?
Bell: It was extremely hard. It was just as hard being right there on the bench and just witnessing everything, and trying to be instrumental in practice. For the season to turn out like it did. I can’t even describe or even revisit how I truly felt.
AJC: What are you doing with the rest of the summer?
Bell: Rehabbing and working out. Combination of 3-4 different things. After rehab, conditioning, then skill work in the gym, intense stretching. Combination of those four things.
AJC: What positives have you taken from this experience? What have you learned about yourself that you will apply?
Bell: I do not know. I honestly do not know because coming into college I was blessed with the trait of not putting all my eggs in one basket. I have graduated. I have a safety net. I have plans after basketball. I’m just waiting to see what God has in store. Am I supposed to play basketball? Am I supposed to pursue my career in another arena?
I tried to stay patient and focus on other things in case basketball didn’t work out.
AJC: What were those other things?
Bell: School. Stay focused on school. I’m an artist. I write poetry. Write lyrics. I was heavy into that. Heavy into community service. Just defining my career. I’m a business management major with a focus on marketing. I know exactly what I want to do, selling consumer products. Getting close to my teammates and living the college life.