by Ryan Jones/ @thefarmerjones
The curse of the perfect jump shot—the fundamentally flawless release and the almost shocking accuracy to which it leads—is that it can fool even seasoned observers. Take Brad Beal: A lot of people got it in their heads that the senior shooting guard from Chaminade Prep in St. Louis is one-dimensional, simply because his handle and his defense aren’t quite as polished as his J. The same could be said for Ray Allen, whose “one-dimensional” game will one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
No one’s saying Beal is already on the level of one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but scouts love making the comparison, and the parallels are hard to deny. A consensus top-10 player in the 2011 class, Beal averaged 29 points per game last season against high school comp, then went for a team-high 18.3 ppg (including 48 percent shooting from beyond the arc) to lead the US team to gold at the U17 World Championship back in July. He shot more than twice as many threes as anyone else on the squad, and you can bet the other young Americans never once complained.
“Honestly, my teammates would look to me whenever we needed a basket,” Beal says. “Like Quinn Cook—before every game, he’d tell me, ‘Just let it go.’ The whole bench was telling me, ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot.’ It was a really fun experience to be able to step up on that type of stage.”
The other reason he savored it?
“I was able to prove myself to a bunch of people who were still underestimating me,” Beal asserts. “I’m pretty sure I changed a lot of people’s minds last summer.”
He figures some of those cynics just don’t think much of Show-Me-State ballers, while others let the quality of his jump shot overshadow the rest of his skill set. That said, Beal feels he’s got a realistic grasp on his game. Getting all his tools as sharp as his jumper will be a daunting task, but it’s what he’s focused on. “People doubt my defense and my athletic ability, and they think I can’t handle the ball,” he says. “But a lot of people tell me I have sneaky athletic ability, and I know I have the ability to get past defenders. Guys get up on me, and that really made me develop my ballhandling. I’ve really worked on the other parts of my game.”
College coaches didn’t seem concerned about Beal’s limitations; he copped offers from every school that mattered, paring his list to Duke, Florida and Kansas before settling on the Gators. He said he likes the style Billy Donovan’s teams play, and while Florida isn’t pulling in prep All-Americans at the rate of that squad in Lexington, Beal envisions joining a veteran squad in Gainesville and likes his chances next winter.
In the meantime, he’ll continue trying to polish the rest of his game, particularly that handle, as he preps for a possible NBA future. Beal says he’s up to 6-5, but his USA Basketball bio from last summer lists him at 6-3—an indication of the view among scouts that he’s a shooter in a point guard’s body. “I know people call me undersized,” he says. “I think I’m still growing, but just in case, I’m really working on my ballhandling.”
Beal cites Eric Gordon as a guy whose size and game he can relate to. If he can get close to the level of Ray or Eric, the curse—and the doubters—will be forgotten soon enough.