Beal said he plans to take the same approach throughout his rookie season, ignoring the hype and expectations of being the third overall pick in last month’s draft. He arrives in Washington having already dealt with a similar pressure-filled situation at the University of Florida, where he came in as a highly touted recruit out of Chaminade High in St. Louis and was overly concerned with being perfect and trying to prove that he warranted the marquee billing.
His first few months in college weren’t enjoyable, his team struggled, and Beal didn’t start to have fun again until he relaxed and let the game come to him.
“I really learned a lot from that, and my whole demeanor changed from there,” Beal said.
That calm and even-keeled Beal was evident Friday as he scored a subtle 22 points in his summer league debut, a 102-82 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Cox Pavilion. He missed his first shot, a driving layup, but made his next, a three-pointer, and found a good rhythm offensively as he contributed 14 points in the first half. Steady and efficient, Beal threw down a few dunks, seemingly out of necessity instead of a desire to showboat.
His shot wasn’t as accurate in the second half, as he missed 6 of 8, and he had a few turnovers, but he stayed on the attack. Beal continues to work on improving his ballhandling, but he still managed to find the creases in the Hawks’ defense. Having developed his toughness as a kid trying to attack the basket against his two older, more physically imposing brothers, Brandon and Bruce — who both went on to play college football — Beal had no problem drawing contact on his drives and connected on 9 of 10 free throws.
“He’s special,” said Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell, who is leading the team’s summer league contingent. “You look at his game. It’s like, no emotions. You walk in the gym, you couldn’t tell if he had one point or 30 points. There are a lot of guys, that’s a thing they don’t have, or will ever get. He’ll be fine. Bradley Beal is my least concern.”
Beal admitted that he had “a little brain freeze” a few times and made mistakes on Friday, but he played at the same pace and never appeared flustered or out of control. Beal said he adopted his on-court cool from his parents, Bobby and Besta, who always told him, “Never let anybody see you sweat.”