COLUMBIA — Keion Bell shrugged shyly, his hands positioned inside his pockets. He knew the answer to the question, yet he deferred, using a strategically placed pause.
He carefully scanned the court.
Staring intently at the preoccupied faces of his competition, the Pepperdine University transfer assured himself that nobody was listening.
Comforted, he surrendered his reply.
“I mean, yeah,” the 6-foot-4 guard said, trading a confident smirk for a coy smile. “I don’t want to sound cocky or nothing, but I’m pretty sure I’ll win.”
He released a short burst of laughter.
Even teammates that would dare to disagree with his confidence can’t deny the unanimous prediction: Bell will win the dunk contest at Mizzou Madness.
“Keion Bell is a pretty strong (bet to win),” head coach Frank Haith said.
“He has what, a 45-inch vertical? It’s crazy,” junior guard Phil Pressey said, shaking his head with amazement.
“I’m the underdog in this. I know Keion’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve, but we’ll see how it plays out,” junior guard and University of Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson said with an unconvincing competitiveness.
The Missouri men’s and women’s basketball teams open up their 2012-2013 season Friday night with Mizzou Madness. The event features an autograph session, a scrimmage from both teams and an array of skill competitions, most notably, the highly anticipated dunk contest.
“Bell,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Keion has a signature 360-degree, between-the-legs dunk that a lot of people saw in the commercial. That just blows everything out of the water.”
How Bell will win seems to be the only real question.
Assistant coach Rick Carter tweeted this week that Bell will jump over Truman and a fire truck at the contest.
When asked about the tweet, Bell failed to hold in his laughter. He once again hesitated with his response, careful to neither confirm nor deny the bizarre statement.
“There’s some stuff that we can’t elaborate on right now, but it’s a surprise,” he said with a wide grin. "I don’t want to take all of my tricks out of the bag right now.”
His teammates have also heard about the tweet.
“Nah, he’s just talking,” Pressey said, clearly unmoved. “I don’t know what he’s going to do. He might jump over like 20 people.” Bell jumped over seven people while at Pepperdine.
“Man, I don’t know,” Clarkson said about the absurd notion. “He’s out here trying to bring ambulance trucks and everything. He’s trying to do anything to win.”
“A fire truck? I don’t believe that,” Bowers said unconvinced. “A fire truck? Come on now, we’re not talking about a car. We’re talking about a fire truck. I don’t believe that one. Unless he uses a trampoline.”
Regardless of what happens Friday night at Mizzou Arena, fire truck or not, fans will have the opportunity to meet and receive their first glimpse of several new, highly touted transfers. Sporting News mentioned the new additions when it listed the Tigers at No. 10 in their annual Top 25 preseason rankings.
Doors to the arena are set to open at 5:30 p.m., where fans can meet and precongratulate Bell on his imminent dunk contest victory.
Or so he believes.
“I haven’t lost one yet,” he said. “I don’t plan on starting Friday.”