Florida freshman shooting guard Bradley Beal has been compared to future Hall of Famer Ray Allen, but the player he tried to pattern his game after while growing up in St. Louis was Allen Iverson. Beal said he had the headband, the signature Reebok sneakers, the wristbands and even wore cornrows up until his freshman year in high school.
“I really mimicked him when I was younger,” Beal said. “He was a great point guard and I was a point guard when I was smaller. I eventually began to start shooting the ball and became a shooter and now I’m trying to put it all together.”
The highest-rated shooting guard prospect in the upcoming draft, Beal will audition for the No. 3 pick with the Wizards on Thursday but he is somewhat uncomfortable with the comparisons with Allen. Beal has the utmost respect for Allen, his impeccable shooting form and his contributions to the game as an NBA champion and the all-time leader in three-pointers made.
Beal actually believes his game more closely resembles that of Eric Gordon. He also just is not sure that he is always being compared with the correct Allen. “I think people compare me to this Ray Allen,” Beal said, speaking of the version of Allen who recently had ankle surgery after an injury-plagued season in Boston, “[not] to the older Ray Allen, which I think is probably a better comparison.”
Beal, 18, was born only three years before Allen was taken fifth overall in the 1996 draft, but he is familiar with the player who was so athletic that he competed in the slam dunk contest in his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks. He knows Jesus Shuttlesworth. He knows “He Got Game.”
“That’s my favorite movie. After that movie I was” a big fan, Beal said. “This Ray Allen is more of a catch-and-shoot guy. He’s doesn’t really attack the basket like he used to. He’s still capable, but it’s not the same. He’s still older and he’s a shooter now. In previous years, he was more of a scorer. He was super-athletic, defended well. Great feet. Could shoot the ball off the basket and finish at the rim.”
If that’s the version NBA scouts and talent evaluators are speaking of, Beal said, “I have a lot of work to do.”
The Wizards certainly have a glaring need for perimeter scoring, and the 6-foot-4 Beal could help address those concerns. He met with representatives from the Wizards last week in Chicago and is hoping that would be willing to select him to become John Wall’s backcourt mate on June 28.
“It was pretty good. I really liked it a lot,” Beal said of his meeting with the Wizards. “They had a great staff and they have a lot of interest in me and I have interest in them as well. Curious to see how this whole process goes.”
Beal didn’t shoot particularly well in his one season in college, but he believes that his late-season surge was the result of developing more comfort and familiarity with the system.
“Midway through the season, I wasn’t happy with my performance. I didn’t think I was coming out at all,” Beal said.
Also, Beal had to stop trying not to live off the high expectations that followed him to Florida and focus on having fun, a change in mentality that served him well. Now, he is out to prove that there are more dimensions to his game than his shooting ability. He had a 39-inch maximum vertical leap at the NBA combine and he has the arms and hands to possibly become a decent defender at the next level.
“I take pride in my defense,” Beal said. “I love playing defense because defense leads to your offense. It’s all fun in the game. I can use my length on people and my size to take up space and create bad shots. . . . I’m an all-around player. I don’t like to limit myself to being a shooter.”
Beal also feels he shares one quality with Iverson, and that is a desire to attack the basket. The middle of five brothers, Beal was the one who decided to stop playing football to focus on basketball once the recruiting letters came in from the top hoops programs. But the former quarterback, receiver and safety said he still has a football players’ mentality; he’s not afraid of getting hit.
“Physicality is all a part of the game,” he said. “There is always going to be contact and I love to draw contact. That’s how you get easy points that way and get easy fouls on the opposing teams. If you get in there, battle a little bit, you’re going to get banged up, you’re going to get hit. That’s part of the game. You can’t be soft.”
As for comparisons to Allen, Gordon or anyone else, Beal said, “I like to be myself really and not compare myself with anybody else.”
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