Dream big and work hard.
That was the message of professional basketball player Damen Bell-Holter during presentations at three North Coast schools last week.
The 24-year-old went from playing on small basketball courts in his hometown of Hydaburg, Alaska to playing in the NBA and international leagues.
“I grew up in a town of 300 people,” he said.
“So all I grew up doing was playing basketball.”
During his upbringing there were a lot of distractions, including alcohol and drugs. While many of Bell-Holter’s friends succumbed to temptation, he remained focused on his dream of being a professional basketball player.
And it paid off. Bell-Holter went on to play college basketball at Oral Roberts University for four years while majoring in business administration.
“If you work hard, everything is going to fall into place,” he told students.
Then in 2013, Bell-Holter played with the Boston Celtics in training camp and preseason, being the first Native American to play in the NBA in 30 years.
“If I can make it coming from a town of 300 people in the middle of nowhere to touch the NBA … anything is possible,” he said.
Bell-Holter has been able to travel around the world because of basketball, currently playing for Pertevniyal Istanbul of the Turkish Basketball Second League.
During his presentations, Bell-Holter spoke about sacrifices he had to make to get to where he is today and encouraged students to always push themselves in order to achieve their dreams.
“It’s going to be dark and it’s going to be difficult, but the road to being successful in anything is going to require not giving up no matter what,” he said.
Bell-Holter challenged students to listen to and respect their parents and teachers, strive to be a good role model to the people around them and to never give up on their ambitions.
“If you have dreams and goals that seem crazy, keep pushing for them,” Bell-Holter said.
“If I had listened to all of the critics … I’d be back home in Hydaburg.”