Tonneisha (Woo) Bell lives and breathes basketball.
She will tell you that most of her thoughts are consumed with some form of the sport each day.
Every opportunity she is afforded is devoted to dribbling, shooting or even talking about basketball.
This love and devotion to hoops is something that drives Bell, who is affectionately called Woo by everyone, to be the best she can.
This summer Woo continued to hone her skills as she recently returned home from Columbus, Ohio as a member of the U.S. Junior Nationals Sports Festival.
Woo joined eight other girls from Louisiana and Mississippi to form the team that won the overall girl’s championship with a 9-0 record. Woo’s team competed against players from Canada, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Washington, Wyoming, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Texas. In addition to the overall championship, she was also selected First Team All-American Junior Nationals.
During the tournament she led her team in assists and rebounds and scored 10 or more points in each of the nine games.
The experience for Woo was a great one.
“I was scared at first because I didn’t know any of the players and I just didn’t know what to expect. When we started practicing it was just basketball and all my fears went away. I enjoyed meeting new people and competing,” she said.
Shelia Bell, Woo’s mother said, “basketball is something that has given her purpose and brought the family together as well as the entire community. We love to support Woo. She loves basketball and we love her. The way she is committed to it is a beautiful thing and we are there for every single game,” said Sheila.
In the Bell clan, every family member has a Broad Street High School Lady Jaguars basketball schedule on their refrigerator as to know when each game is and even when they are canceled.
“The support I get from my family is amazing. My mom and dad (Tony and Sheila) do everything in their power to give me every opportunity to play basketball and be successful,” said Woo.
“If no one else is there for me you can bet Tony and Sheila Bell will be there,” she added with a laugh.
Woo and her family live in the Bolivar County village of Duncan where there isn’t much to do for a kid beyond walking the streets, riding bicycles, playing a game of kickball or shooting hoops.
The places to play ball in Duncan are limited to the basketball court at Brooks Elementary School where grass outlines can be found throughout the asphalt and the rims are uneven with paint chipped backboards.
For a young lady the options are usually restricted to a portable hoop in front of ones house, but the talented 15 year old rarely has a problem getting picked by the boys, but that is typically when the high school season is over for Woo.
“Basketball is everything to me. When I play I feel my mind is clear and I can relax from any troubles I may have. Playing against the boys is tough, but I can handle it. There aren’t that many girls that play for real in Duncan anyway,” said Woo.
Basketball may be everything to Woo, but grades are clearly first and foremost. Woo was the salutatorian in her eighth grade class and this past school year, which was her freshman year she brought home A’s and B’s.
“I love basketball, but my mom made it clear that in order to play you have to get really good grades and that’s encourages me to always stay on top of my school work,” she added.
This past season Woo made the All-District team and was selected as a member of The Bolivar Commercial’s All-Area Girl’s Basketball Team. She led her team with 16 points per game and 16 rebounds per game.
With everything she accomplished last season and this summer, Woo is excited about the upcoming basketball year for the Lady Jaguars.
“I am just looking forward to doing all I can to help lead our team and go further in the playoffs,” Woo said.