Cole, freshmen have Bellaire back in regional semis

Cole, freshmen have Bellaire back in regional semis (Copyright (c) 2022 VYPE - All rights reserved)

After Bellaire’s 59-25 loss to DeSoto in a San Antonio tournament game in late November, Cardinals junior wing Jacolb Cole shook the hand of DeSoto head coach Richard Bacon.

“I’ll see you again at the end of the season,” Cole said.

Cole is the anchor of a Bellaire team starting three freshmen, with a fourth a reliable contributor off the bench. Any idea of the state tournament at the time, let alone playing in it, seemed preposterous.

But even then, Cole saw what was possible. He saw a team that was closer to San Antonio, site of the state tournament, than not.

“It’s the swagger he has. It’s confidence,” Bellaire coach Bruce Glover said. “Afterward, I asked him, hey, what’d you say to him? And he told me, ‘Coach, I told him we’ll see him again in San Antonio.’ And now we’re two games away.”

The 21-8 Cardinals are in the Region III-6A semifinals for the second time in three years after besting Cy Creek, 56-46, in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

Cole was Cole, producing a game-high 23 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocks. The 6-foot-8 wing is one of the premier talents in the Class of 2023. A natural, gifted scorer, he is dominating games on both ends of the floor this season.

“I feel like I now can defend anyone on the court,” Cole said. “I’m going to get my buckets, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to be able to get stops as well.”

But it can be argued that Cole’s most significant impact has come off the court.

This season, Cole has grown into a leader, embracing his role as the face of the program. No longer is he the one looking up to others. Others are looking up to him.

“I’ve come a long way in my maturity,” Cole said. “This year, I have the guys trusting in me and we’re coming together.”

Cole’s leadership has been crucial in helping acclimate the four freshmen to varsity. Shelton Henderson, Anthony Andrews, and Kohlman Dutton are starters. Each one is rangy, tall, athletic, and smart. All can score and defend.

The 6-6 Henderson is a do-it-all guard. He had 14 points, six rebounds, and four steals against Cy Creek. The 6-6 Andrews is a versatile big, a shot-blocker and rebounder with the perimeter touch of a sharpshooter. The 6-2 Dutton is a gritty defender who has a knack for big plays at big moments.

The trio shares a strong bond. All play together with John Lucas’s JL3 Elite program.

Noah Neumann is a shooting specialist off the bench. He hit the game-winning 3-pointer to beat Seven Lakes in the area round last week.

“It’s been tough,” Cole said. “We’ve had to grow them up in a span of, about, three months. Turn them from 15-year-olds to 18-year-olds. It’s been great for me, because I’ve been able to lead and help show them what it takes to win. They bring a lot of heart. They know how to play together.”

When asked what’s helped bring the freshmen along, Glover had two words: Jacolb Cole.

“Jacolb demands a lot out of himself, and they really, really respect him,” Glover said. “They all work out together. They all like each other. And those kids don’t even see themselves as freshmen anymore. They really don’t.”

Glover also credits his young assistants, Cedric Netty II, Jacobe Kemp, and Michael Lewis. They can relate to the freshmen and build relationships in ways the admittedly “old-school” Glover is still learning.

They have also been there through the rocky times for Glover, who has matured in his own fashion.

“When I had some really good talent, and I underachieved a couple of years, I stopped coaching when those kids didn’t do things I expected them to do,” Glover said. “These (assistants) have reminded me, ‘Coach, it’s a caution sign. Not a stop sign. Keep coaching.’ And that’s what I’m doing.”

Now Bellaire is on the verge of a return to the Alamo City. Locked in, staying focused, and playing hard.

“I’m not surprised,” Cole said. “We put the work in every day for this. We’ve got to just stay connected as we continue to play together. Keep on and just stay on the path. Don’t overthink things. Just keep playing hard and stick to our principles and fundamentals.”