Before Bradley Beal became a Washington Wizard, he was a Florida Gator, playing his one college season under two-time national championship winning coach Billy Donovan. Because of fortuitous scheduling, the two reunited in D.C. this week.
In the midst of his first professional offseason, Beal returned to town at the same time Donovan convened final practices for the U.S.under-19 national team. Donovan, his assistant coaches with local ties and 12 players leave Saturday to compete in the FIBA World Championships held in Prague from June 27-July 7.
Despite his current challenges - getting a dozen college and high school players to form a championship winning squad on the fly has proven difficult for the U.S. in this event - Donovan had dinner with Beal on Thursday night. Friday afternoon he talked about his former player's rookie campaign, including his initial and not so surprising struggles.
"If you look at him at Florida his freshman year, he got off to a slow start," said Donovan to CSNwashington. "Then when we got into January he started to take off and come into his own. That's what he's done [with the Wizards]. It didn't surprise me that toward the end of the season, before he got hurt, he was playing really good basketball."
Considered the premier shooter at his position coming out of high school, Beal's 3-point accuracy (33.9) wavered during his freshman season, but picked up late. Starting with Kentucky in the SEC Tournament and including four NCAA Tournament games, Beal sank 12 of 26 attempts (46.1 percent) from beyond the arc and 58.5 percent from all angles.
Fast forward to Beal's rookie campaign in Washington. Tentative and unsteady early on, the 19-year-old shot 28.7 (31 for 108) from beyond the 3-point arc and averaged 12.3 points through his first 25 games. Like at Florida, his confidence and shooting percentages jumped when the calendar flipped to January. In his next 30 games, Beal scored 15.5 per game and knocked down a staggering 48.4 percent (62 of 128) of his 3-point attempts until stress injury to his right fibula ended his season prematurely.
"There are some guys that can just come in and try and take over," Donovan said. "The one thing about Brad is that he's such a good team guy. He's a winner. I knew it was going to take him a little bit of time."
Still waiting for clearance to resume basketball activities, Beal could play in next month's Las Vegas Summer League. Along with John Wall, he's been invited to workout with Team USA in late July. Whenever he returns to the court, Beal can truly ramp his preparations for his sophomore season.
Asked what enhancements to Beal's game he expects for next season, Donovan said, "I think he's going to be better at pick and roll. I think he's going to have another year under his belt and therefore a better level of understanding."
Oh, the already impressive perimeter shooting, Donovan expects improvements there as well.
"I think for every rookie, especially for him since he's so young, the adjustment to the 3-point line is huge. I think he'll become a better shooter as time unfolds. ...Once he figures it out, he can really go on a run. He's got a great, great stroke, great shooter."
Notes...Virginia head Tony Bennett and VCU head coach Shaka Smart are serving as Donovan's assistant's for the world championships. UVA center Mike Tobey made the final roster along with Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who remained in school despite NBA Draft analysts projecting him as a high lottery selection.