NBA Draft 2012: A Closer Look at Florida’s Bradley Beal

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Last year, St. Louis native Bradley Beal ended his high school career with a bang. He led the Chaminade Red Devils to a 27-1 record—the sole loss being in the state quarterfinal game—while posting averages of 32.4 points, 5.7 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals steals per game. The consensus top-5 recruit also shot an absurd 73% from the floor, including 49% from beyond the arc, and won the prestigious Gatorade National Player of the Year award over such uber-hyped players as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Austin Rivers. 

His smooth game and picture perfect jump shot helped draw him favorable comparisons to the NBA’s all-time leader in made 3-point shots, Ray Allen. This, of course, left some rather large shoes for him to fill before setting foot on a college campus. In November of 2010, Beal ultimately decided that the best fit for him was the University of Florida. 

After losing their former starting small forward in Chandler Parsons due to graduation, Beal was given an opportunity to not only receive plenty of playing time right away, but also start. Beal thrived in this role and did whatever his team needed him to do in order to win. He quickly built up a reputation as a solid defender and a very intelligent overall player. 

One of the defining moments of Beal’s freshman campaign came when backup power forward Will Yeguete went down with a broken foot in late February and missed the remainder of the season. The 6’5″, 200-pound Beal, already playing out of his natural shooting guard position, was now asked to play significant minutes at power forward for the undersized Gators.

Rather than moping about it, Beal stepped his game up to another level and averaged an impressive 8 rebounds per game the rest of the year. 

Beal learned his toughness from his childhood. He grew up with four enormous, football-playing brothers, each of whom outweighed Bradley by over 100 pounds. They quickly became his human punching bags. The “smallest” Beal would line them up underneath the basket, then run into them and attempt to score. In addition to learning how to finish with contact, this also helped Beal become the hard-nosed warrior on the court that he is today.

Similar to his high school career, Beal’s run with Florida ended in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, as the 7th-seeded Gators lost in a heart-breaker to the 4th-seeded Louisville Cardinals. This, however, was not until after Beal had not one, but two signature performances to end the year.

The first came in the SEC semifinal game against the eventual national champion Kentucky Wildcats. After going 1-10 from the floor with five points in their previous meeting, Beal came out strong, scoring 20 points on 8-15 shooting against perhaps the top perimeter defender in the country in Kidd-Gilchrist. Kentucky eked out a 74-71 victory, but it was Beal who earned the praise from the media and tremendously helped his draft stock.

The next came in Florida’s Sweet 16 matchup verse the 3rd-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles. Beal lit it up from the floor, exploding for a game-high 21 points on 8-10 shooting. This was by far the Gators biggest game of the season, and it proved that Beal could perform on the largest stage in college hoops.

All season long, Beal earned a countless amount of praise from not only the media, but also from head coach Billy Donovan, who loved Beal’s humbleness and demeanor—both on and off the court. According to Donovan:

“The one thing I admire about him more than anything else from the time he stepped foot on this campus, he has been a great teammate, he has been really unselfish, he has worked incredibly hard. Winning is very, very important to him. Chemistry on the team is very important to him.”

Donovan also commented on the Allen comparisons, saying, “He, to me, can be a Ray Allen kind of player. Brad is going to be a scorer in the NBA. He’s going to be a guy that they’re going to run plays for to get him shots and to make plays.”

The generic fan may question how a sub-35% shooter from beyond the arc in college can translate into an NBA 3-point specialist. After all, Ray Allen shot over 46% in his final season at Connecticut. Beal would be the first to admit that he was uncharacteristically cold for most of the season.

Regardless, his flawless form paired with his reportedly never-ending dedication to the sport have scouts across the league confident that he will find his form at the next level. The adjustment from guard to forward could have thrown him off a little bit, not to mention that the Gators backcourt duo of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton were rarely able to create an open shot for him.

Beal has a tremendous amount of potential as a scorer in the NBA, though he may lack the explosiveness, athleticism and ability to create for others that could prevent him from ever truly becoming a superstar. His basketball IQ mixed with a maturity level that is light-years beyond most 18-year-olds make him the perfect teammate.

Beal averaged 14.8 points, 6.7 boards, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game on the year, playing in each and every one of Florida’s 37 games. He is currently projected to go anywhere from second to fifth in the draft on June 28.

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