Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008 | 12:22 p.m.
- Bellfield discusses whether childhood friend Justin Hawkins, who committed to UNLV a year ago, influenced his decision to join the team
- Bellfield dishes on the talent he's witnessed playing pick-up games with his new teammates all summer
- Bellfield gives young prospects recruiting advice based on his own experiences
Oscar Bellfield file -- UNLV freshman guard
- Age: 18
- Hometown: Los Angeles
- Height: 6-feet-2
- Weight: 180 pounds
- Family: Mother, Lawanda; father, Oscar; sisters Johnisha, 18, and Maya, 15
- High school: Guided Westchester to a 29-5 record last season, which included the semifinals of the city finals and quarterfinals at state. He averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. He made the first team all-city team.
- Personal: He sports a fresh tattoo, which he got in Los Angeles before leaving for Las Vegas and summer school, on the inside of his right forearm. In Loving Memory, it reads. LHJ. Guardian Angels surround it. Larry Hill Jr., Bellfield's cousin, was fatally shot three years ago. "I cherish it a lot," Bellfield said. "I don’t know. It was crazy. I don’t want to talk about it."
- Quote: "People should know that I'm dedicated and in it to the end. I give it my all."
The second time around, guard Oscar Bellfield wasn’t going to let a UNLV basketball scholarship slip through his fingers.
“I got it back,” Bellfield said. “It came around again. For sure, it had to be this time.”
After another daily session of pick-up action last week, Bellfield appeared relaxed and grateful to be a Rebel.
He can’t wait to see his red UNLV uniform with the No. 0 -- as in Oscar -- in his locker on Oct. 17, the first official day of practice.
“I’m loving where I’m at now,” Bellfield said. “I have great teammates, it’s a great environment, the arena is beautiful and the coaching staff is great. No regrets.”
Bellfield’s route to Las Vegas was unusual in an era when blue-chip prospects are spotted in the eighth and ninth grades, if not earlier, and typically make Division I commitments before their junior prep seasons.
He waited. And waited. And waited. Bellfield didn't pick a college until after his senior season and knows how rare his move was.
“It was very different,” he said. “I took a big chance, risking a big scholarship. But it turned out great.”
Bellfield said UNLV coach Lon Kruger offered him a scholarship when he made an unofficial visit to Las Vegas after his sophomore season at Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft High.
He declined. He wanted to test his Pac-10 value, to see if Oregon or USC would show interest. He injured his groin and the phone didn’t ring as frequently.
Rebels assistant coach Lew Hill, however, stayed in touch. He called Bellfield, sent notes and watched him play as a junior and senior at Westchester High in Los Angeles.
“It’s a waiting game sometimes,” Hill said. “We always liked the way he played. I kept recruiting him, just in case anything happened. Then, when it happened, we jumped right back on it.
“He said, yes.”
UNLV had a flood of scholarships when four players who started the 2007-08 campaign as Rebels left, for various reasons, by the end of the season.
Emanuel Adeife was booted from the team, Marcus Lawrence was shown the exit after an arrest, Lamar Roberson bolted and Troy Cage left.
Bellfield said he wasn’t keeping tabs on the situation at UNLV.
A year ago, Taft guard Justin Hawkins, with whom Bellfield has played since he was 7 and whom Bellfield calls “little cousin,” gave an oral commitment to Kruger.
But Bellfield said the two didn’t chat much about Bellfield’s future.
"I didn’t talk to him that much about UNLV," Bellfield said. "He committed, then I saw him several times. I said, 'UNLV, that’s a good choice. A real good choice.'"
"Then it happened. I got the call. It was shock and surprise. I said, 'This is it.'"
Kruger rang with the scholarship offer.
“All of a sudden, we had a few,” Kruger said. “We think Oscar is a good leader, a good defender and very, very unselfish. He puts the team first. He brings intangibles you like to see in young players.”
Hill sees Bellfield as an athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard whose demeanor and defensive intensity will enable him to contribute as a freshman.
“He never got his due in high school,” Hill said. “He was hurt a lot. He never hit his potential. He has work to do, but he’s willing to work hard. He could have a solid career here, solid to very good.”
Since he finished the season at Westchester, Bellfield has learned plenty.
He played for a select team that participated against national youth squads from other countries in a tournament in Germany.
The U.S. took fourth place after losing to Turkey in a semifinal and losing to Australia for third.
The team only practiced three times -- all after touching down in Germany. It learned international rules as it went along. Bellfield said it took no foe lightly.
After each of those last two defeats, though, the American players were swamped for autographs.
“That was like, wow,” Bellfield said. “I had never experienced that.”
He came to Las Vegas this summer to take part in summer school and pick-up games, and guarded former UNLV guards Kevin Kruger and Marcus Banks on occasion.
The runs against Wink Adams, the senior spark who will pace the Rebels this season, were especially challenging.
“He’s a great player. He shoots deep, from another universe,” Bellfield said. “And he can take it to the rack, take the contact and finish with either hand. Wow, I had to adjust.”
Bellfield relishes honing his skills on defense, which he considers a dwindling art. It’s what can take you to the next level, he said. It’s all about heart.
While he’s at UNLV, he also will relish playing certain schools on the West Coast.
“Now that I’m here,” Bellfield said, “it will be even better beating a Pac-10 school.”