Creek Wood junior, Raegan Hohl wears the number three on her basketball jersey for just one reason.
“Rachel Bell,” Hohl said.
When Hohl was in seventh grade, Rachel Bell was the hot shot Red Hawk. A senior who led the team to a TSSAA Class AA state tournament appearance and first state tournament win.
The young Hohl took note of Bell’s game from the sidelines eager for her chance.
“Whenever she was a senior I saw all the college coaches coming into our gym and I was seeing the way she worked,” Hohl recalled. “I would watch her and she worked just as hard if coach was there watching her or he wasn’t.”
One day after school, Hohl remembers approaching Bell for a favor.
Or, rather a challenge, to see who was better in a pick-up game.
“I would always come up to the high school and work out and she’d be here working out too,” Hohl recalls. “I remember asking her to play 1-on-1. Of course, I would get beat, but it only made me better.”
Bell, a 2014 Creek Wood graduate, averaged 24.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a Red Hawk and was a Class AA Miss Basketball Finalist in 2012 and 2014.
When Bell graduated from Creek Wood and moved on to play at Vanderbilt, the number three became available in the locker room.
Hohl was ready to fill the jersey.
“Rachel wore it, and I liked it a lot,” Hohl said. “I wanted to strive to be like she was as a player. Her work ethic is what made me want to work on my game and improve.”
Creek Wood first-year coach, Russell Wilson, coached both Bell and Hohl at Charlotte Middle School.
“Raegan like Rachel works all the time,” Wilson said. “Someone is going to get a hidden gem there with Raegan. You can’t measure her heart by her size. She’s small in stature, but her heart is huge, that’s why she’s able to go in and get rebounds.”
Wilson spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Creek Wood before becoming the head coach.
“A coach would love to have 15 Raegan’s,” Wilson said. “She’s always there to pick you up and to cheer on the team.”
This season, Hohl is averaging better than 14 points per game helping the Red Hawks (23-4, 13-1 in District 11-AA) to a first-place regular season finish in both the district and region.
“We’re at a certain level right now and we have to keep going forward,” Hohl said of the team’s success. “We can’t move backwards, we have to keep our energy high.”
Reach Andrew Preston at APreston@tennessean.com or 615-259-8015 and on Twitter @AndrewPreston33