Kaipo Sabas and Will Bell are a coach's dream.
They'll do whatever you ask of them. They'll bust their tails to reach their potential. They'll make the ultimate sacrifices in order to better the team. And, quite frankly, they are the perfect representations of coach Tim Miles' GATA [Get After Their (You-Know-What)] mentality.
Standing at barely 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds, Sabas won't normally catch your eye in a game surrounded by bigger, more talented players. Don't get me wrong, he has shot the 'three' ball extremely well this year at 47 percent (24 of 51), tops on the team. And, he's a valuable passer and defender. But his athletic ability and size often leave first-time onlookers wondering how he could be starting at Cameron Indoor Arena against the likes of Austin Rivers and Seth Curry of Duke.
Sabas, though, is the local kid that everyone loves to root for. He wasn't highly recruited coming out of Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, so he decided to enroll at Laramie County C.C. in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he averaged eight points per contest in two years. After exhausting his eligibility there, he walked-on at CSU to further his basketball career, where his work ethic and hustle earned him not only a spot on the roster, but action in three games. He only scored six points and recorded three rebounds, but nonetheless impressive considering he was playing at the Division 1 level against some of the best competition in the nation.
Fast forward to now, and Sabas has become a leader on a guard-loaded team. With talented perimeter players like Wes Eikmeier, Dorian Green, Jesse Carr, and Dwight Smith in the lineup, Sabas has earned himself thirteen starts in twenty-four games. Not bad for an undersized shooting guard.
Sabas has exploded onto the scene and become an important cog on a surprisingly good CSU squad. He is a fan favorite for not just locals, but for college basketball fans in the Mountain West.
Will Bell followed a very similar path. Overlooked by the bigger schools coming out of Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Bell took his talents to Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Co. where he averaged eleven points and seven boards in his final season there. He earned a full-ride scholarship to CSU and enrolled last season as a junior. Bell saw decent minutes off-and-on last year, but was primarily a backup to bigger forwards Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin, and shared time with Sixth Man of the Year award winner Pierce Hornung.
Now, the six-foot-six power forward (yes, very undersized at his position like Sabas) has blossomed into a player many coaches from around the league are convinced is the most improved player in the Mountain West this season. Averaging 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds, while shooting 82.7 percent from the charity stripe and 52 percent from the field as a whole, Bell has become an integral piece in the paint for Colorado State. Although he has recently dealt with knee injuries, Bell has still managed to start twenty-three of twenty-six games he has played in for the Rams this year.
Both seniors epitomize the 2011-2012 Rams: hardworking, team-oriented, undersized, but oh-so-fun to watch. Rams fans will miss the Colorado natives, and while the duo really only made a big impact in one season, it'll be a lasting impact that Colorado State fans won't soon forget.