Young Javarez Willis spent all day searching. Great-grandma told him they were hard to spot, but he was determined to find one. He always knew that “life was a gamble.” He needed all the luck he could get.

Finally, “Bean” spots one. Sprouting up from the dry Texas soil, there it was: a four-leaf clover. He couldn’t wait to show his great-grandmother.

“I gave it to her,” he said. “She thought it was the best present ever. It probably was…”

Willis’ grandmother may have passed away years ago, but she is immortalized on his right bicep. Amidst a cloudy sea of roulette wheels, dice, diamonds and pool balls, there stands a lone four-leaf clover.

The four leaf clover Bean Willis has as a permanent tribute to his grandmother. (Photo by Mark Clavin)
Bean Willis’ tattoo of a four-leaf clover is a permanent tribute to his great-grandmother. (Photo by Mark Clavin)

Willis is not alone. Eight of the fifteen players listed on the Bobcats official roster have at least one tattoo. Some, like junior guard Nick Kellogg and sophomore forward Treg Setty, keep their ink discreet. But most show their tats with pride, as is the case with junior Jon Smith.

Smith entire right arm is engulfed in a sleeve, or a group of tattoos that cover the entire arm. The product of four to five hours of handiwork, the swirling design on his forearm is certainly one of the most unique on the team.

“The whole bottom half represents the seven days of creation,” says Smith. The churning haze contains seven knots, representing each day. Spinning from the galaxies are planets: Earth and Saturn. Connecting the two is an angel. Or is it a winged Vince Carter?

Smith’s design is not the only one that features a crossover between religion and basketball. D.J. Cooper’s left bicep features an image of Jesus with his arms outstretched. The Messiah’s right hand palms a basketball.

Cooper also marked his arms with the phrase “God’s Gift.” He keeps it as a “reminder” as to the talents he has been given.

The majority of the Bobcats’ tattoos feature some sort of religious image or symbolism. Sophomore forward Kadeem Green double-dipped to express his faith.

“I am a believer in God and Christ,” said Green. “I want to represent him at all times.”

Green’s right bicep features a pair of folded hands wrapped in a string of prayer beads. Beads also permanently adorn his right wrist.

Green also inked inspirational phrases to keep him motivated. Cursive font across his chest reads “Sky’s The Limit,” a slogan that his coaches have promised to him through hard work. He also keeps the word “Dream” on his left wrist to remind him of his goals.

The KG on the other side? His initials, not a shout out. “The real KG, right here. The original.”

Reggie Keely also keeps himself motivated with his body art. “Keep Pushing” dominates his upper arm.

“It’s something my Dad always said when we were working out,” says Keely. The senior forward can now keep a piece of home with him wherever he goes.

Perhaps the most recognizable tattoos on the squad are the two-tone stars emblazoned on the shoulders of Cooper. The Chicago native, who also pays tribute to the Windy City on his forearm, is not the only one sporting this look.

“Me and my friends back home, we got it,” said Cooper. “It’s a brotherhood type thing.”

Kellogg knows exactly where Cooper is coming from. He and his brother Alex, got their ink done together. Tucked under Kellogg’s right bicep is the phrase “Let Those With Holy Hands Touch Your Life” a phrase he picked up from his pastor at church.

Kellogg’s father Clark, is surely a fan of Walter Offutt’s tattoo on his inner-left arm. His named his spelled out in cursive…that is, apart from one letter. The “O” that begins his last name takes the unmistakable form of the Ohio State “Block O.”

Offutt, who spent two seasons with the Buckeyes in Columbus, doesn’t regret his permanent tribute to Ohio State.

“I’ve still got a little O-State in my system,” he said.

Uninformed Buckeye fans may be disappointed to learn what garnishes Offutt’s left arm. The senior commemorates his Alma Matter, Indianapolis Warren Central, with a stylized “W” on his inner bicep. While the untrained eye may mistake the school’s logo with that of the University of Wisconsin, Offutt assures that it is his “high school W.”

While there is an impressive amount of ink to go around on this Bobcat squad, no player is more tatted up than Willis. His right forearm, all the way up to his shoulder, across his chest and all the way down to his left elbow are covered in personal and family symbols. While it may seem overwhelming to look at, there is a method to his madness.

“[My right arm] is my basketball arm,” he said. Topped with a crowned basketball on his bicep, the arm represents what comes with Willis’ basketball talents.

“This is everything basketball will get you,” he said as he pointed to the diamonds and stars on his forearm. “It’ll make you money.”

The diamonds are surrounded by various games of chance (roulette wheel, dice, and an pool ball), represent one of Willis’ personal mantras.

“I basically feel that life is a gamble,” he said.

His chest is a tribute to those most meaningful in his life: a fallen cousin and his daughter. His left arm follows a similar pattern.

“[My left arm] is my family arm,” he says. He keeps to his hard and fast rule “family first” by honoring his parents on a banner surrounding a cross. He also gives remembrance to his grandmother with her name, rose pedals, and a dove on his back shoulder.

It is worth noting that Willis still has plenty of room on his left forearm. He says that he plans on filling in the rest of his “family arm” when he can find time. With nearly 10 hours under the needle so far, a few more should be a piece of cake.

Though life may be a gamble for Bean Willis, he’s all in.

“I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world,” he said.

It’s easy to feel that way when you carry around a four-leaf clover on your arm.


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