Beal Learning on the Job

The nerves are starting to settle for Brad Beal. The uncertainties that came with his freshman year in college, especially as such a highly ranked player coming out of high school, had Beal questioning what to expect. Now nine games into his college career, the speed of the game is starting to slow down for the freshman, giving him a better idea of the adjustments necessary to succeed.

"I'm not as nervous as I was," Brad Beal said. "It's starting to come natural and play in the flow of the game. I'm not forcing anything, just keeping everything natural."

The quickness of the college game first caught Beal off guard. Opponents were quicker and had more length than anything he was used to before coming to college. That meant he had to work on quickening his shot and have a faster release.

That's the reason Florida head coach Billy Donovan thinks Beal has been inconsistent from the perimeter. He came to Gainesville with the reputation of a sharp shooter similar to NBA star Ray Allen, but Beal is shooting 32% from behind the three-point line at this stage of the season.

Donovan has been encouraging Beal to shorten his release.

"It's easy to do because you don't change anything," Beal said. "You focus on just jumping and releasing it quicker. The form doesn't change or anything like that. Coach Donovan said most shots are missed because of my legs, so I'm trying to just play lower to the ground and get my legs more involved in my game."

Donovan doesn't expect that adjustment to take long. He said early in practice that Beal was had the highest basketball instincts of any first-year player he had coached, and that hasn't changed.

It's the reason he stays on the floor, despite shooting struggles. Beal understands the game and has grown through the process of his first year.

"He has learned and gotten better," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "He understands the speed of the game. I think the speed of the game is something that was a little surprising to him. You think you're open and have time to shoot the ball and those gaps close pretty quickly. Those are things he has to go through to keep getting better."

Most expected it to be a challenge for Beal to feel his way into the flow of the Florida offense. With Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton returning to the team and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario being eligible to play, there didn't look to be many shots available.

Beal has fit right in. He has taken the second most shots on the team and is second on the team with 15.1 points per game.

"I'm pretty comfortable," Beal said. "It's kind of obvious—if you have an open shot, Coach Donovan says to take it. If Pat is wide open ducking in on somebody, just throw it in and he's going to score. I'm real comfortable with the whole offense."

The key as the season becomes a grind is for Beal to stay positive. Even after down games or struggles in practice, his teammates have seen Beal do just that. Fighting through the adversity hasn't been much of a challenge because of the mature mindset Beal brought to Gainesville.

"As long as he keeps the mentality he has now, he has always put himself in a position to improve because he views things the right way and has a clear understanding of where to get better," Donovan said.

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