The decision to enter the NBA draft was easy once Bradley Beal heard that he would be a lottery pick in the June 28 NBA draft. He felt Florida had a chance to be really good next season after advancing to the Elite Eight in his first season, and he actually enjoys the structure of school and homework.
But a chance to go anywhere in the top 14 meant that his dream was too close to pass up. He said his coach Billy Donovan told him he couldn’t go wrong either way with his decision, but a few weeks after declaring, Beal is now a little surprised to hear that he is slated to go anywhere between No. 2 and No. 5.
“I really didn’t expect to be that high,” Beal said. “So that really made me want to work hard and get better.”
Beal has heard all of the reasons for his rising draft stock – that he is the best pure shooter available and could be the next Ray Allen – but he refuses to get caught up. He had a decent freshman year at Florida but believes he could’ve done so much better and has to improve in so many areas to be an effective NBA player.
“The hype is hype. I don’t feed into that,” Beal said. “I’m real humble and I just stay to myself and stay grounded. All the compliments and everything is great, but there’s bigger and better things I can do as well.”
He hears comments about his shooting stroke and remembers that he shot just 33.9 percent from beyond the three-point line at Florida, which he blames on “worrying about my shot too much, instead of just relaxing and playing ball. I knew I was more than capable of shooting better.”
Beal settled the first amount of speculation around him at the NBA combine, with many wondering exactly how tall he is. He is 6-foot-4 but had a sense of humor on Tuesday when asked about his height.
“I actually measured in,” Beal said, cracking a smile, “at 5-8.”
Beal is still considered a little small and slight to be a prototypical shooting guard in the NBA, which is why he is focused on improving other aspects of his game. “Right now, I would say I’m a two guard, but I’m trying to develop into a combo guard. I don’t have a problem handling the ball. I have great ball handling ability now, but it can get better, which is what I want to do, is just keep improving to where I can run the offense and become a point guard. That’s when the combo guard will come in because I can play off the ball as well.”
He expects to have some problems early while attempting to defend against bigger guards, but is up for the challenge. “I have confidence to be able to do that,” Beal said. “I know there’s going to be times I may struggle, but at the same time, I know I’m going to get bigger, stronger and use some of my quickness and ability on them, and just try to create an advantage for myself.
Beal knows John Wall and believes they could form a solid backcourt in Washington, where the Wizards are in desperate need of some perimeter help. “I think it’ll be pretty well, because he likes to play fast. I like to play uptempo as well,” Beal said. “I’ll fit in wherever I go. I know wherever I go, I will have an impact, whether it’s on offense or defense. I’m just going to come in and try to do my best, learn from the vets, learn from the coaches and try to do the best to my abilities.”
Beal will turn 19 on the day of the June 28 draft, and said reaching the NBA would be a nice birthday gift. “I’m staying grounded. It doesn’t matter what pick I am, I’m just happy to be in the draft and in the position I’m in.”
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