by Matt Breen

Ron Golden knew Bradley Beal already possessed a smooth, long-range jumper. But, he thought the use of a heavy, training basketball could improve the 15-year-old’s dribbling and ball-handling skills.

(Chris Graythen/GETTY IMAGES)

His range increased, his dribbling improved and his ball- handling helped him become an even better guard.

On Thursday night Beal’s all-around game will help him be one of the first names called at the NBA draft. Many mocks have him going to the Washington Wizards at No. 3. He’ll turn just 19 years old on draft day.

Beal spent one season at Florida and he was the first Gator player to be first-team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman in the same season.

Although he’s just 6-foot-3, Beal averaged a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game and averaged 14.8 points per game. He hit nearly 34 percent of his three-pointers, but finished by shooting 46 percent in his last five games.

Golden coached Beal for three years with the St. Louis Eagles, a premier AAU team. He said Beal “always had a picture-perfect jump shot” and would go to school early in the morning and shoot by himself.

View Photo Gallery: Gene Wang predicts the first 15 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft.

Although Golden helped Beal strengthen his jumper, it was Beal’s mother, Besta, whom Golden said taught Beal how to shoot.

Besta Beal was a basketball player at Kentucky State, where Bradley’s father, Bobby, played football. Golden said Besta Beal coached high school basketball in St. Louis and always brought Bradley Beal to the gym.

“The other brothers all played football and he was the better basketball player,” said Golden. “He worked on his game and developed it.”

Golden said one of the criticisms he has read on Beal’s game is his defensive ability. Golden disagrees.

“They need to talk to Billy Donovan and find out why he guarded the best player on the other team while he was at Florida if that was such a weakness for him,” he said.

Golden said Beal comes from a “well-structured Christian home,” with a strong family background. Beal made coaching easy, Golden said, and was never a problem when the team traveled. Golden said Beal would sit in the stands before games and read the Bible while he listened to music on his headphones.

“He’s kept in his values and has his head on right,” said Golden. “He knows right from wrong and is a guy that will make the correct decisions.”

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