Beal Hopes to Bounce Back Against UGA

Brad Beal isn't used to adversity. He didn't face much of it in high school. He didn't face much of it in AAU ball. Most times when Beal stepped on the court in high school or AAU, he was the best player on the court, often by a comfortable margin. That's no longer the case. The freshman is currently going through his biggest test as a college basketball player.

"One of the most difficult things when you're going through a stretch of difficulty as a freshman is that he's never dealt with anything like this before," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "He just hasn't. Most of the time in high school, (he thought) 'I'll just play harder. I'm better than everybody.' Now, he's in a situation where shots aren't falling and the game is a little faster. He has never experienced it before, and that's where I've got to help him."

Donovan has done his best to work with Beal in the limited time of a short two-day turnaround before the Gators host Georgia tonight at 7 p.m. The experience Donovan has as a college basketball player earned instant credibility from Beal, and most guards on the team. Donovan understands the struggles a player goes through during the course of a season after a successful college career of his own.

His message to Beal is still a work in progress. People who are close to Beal know how he is. The freshman is his own toughest critic. Mistakes have a tendency to wear on him, sometimes multiple plays after they happen. He's trying to learn the ability to move on after a failure.

"I'm probably my biggest critic of myself," Brad Beal said. "It's really hard for me. I just try not to focus on it too much and just move past it. (Donovan) has been a very big help because he's getting me to calm down and relax to view things from his standpoint as he was as a player. He said to relax and that I'm only a freshman."

The difference in competition still produces the same mentality for Beal on the court. However, Donovan doesn't love that. Beal has been the mild-mannered, team-first player since he showed up on campus, but sometimes that makes him passive on the court. With his struggles holding him back, Donovan wants him to be more aggressive.

"He's also got to have what I consider a nastiness and meanness to him internally of fighting through and focusing on the next play," Donovan said. "He's such a good kid and wants to do the right things, but sometimes when things don't go well, he has a tendency to take himself back and think about something that just happened when there's a play happening right now.

"That's an area of growth he's got to go through. If he misses a layup or three, he can still rebound, defend, put it on the floor or pass. There's a lot he can do right now."

Beal is second on the team with 14.1 points per game and third on the team with 5.9 rebounds per game. The issues have come with his shot. Beal is shooting 41.8% from the field and 31.4% from behind the three-point line. The freshman was billed as the top shooter coming to college basketball this season, but he hasn't lived up to that billing.

Beal knows there's still time to correct that.

"It's just staying confident, relaxing and playing basketball," the freshman said. "I've been going through a lot, but I'm not letting it effect me mentally. I'm trying to be mentally tough and fight through it."

GEORGIA PREVIEW: The Bulldogs lost Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie from last year's team, but freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has made up for their loss of points. The guard is leading the team with 14.6 points per game and 5.1 rebounds, as Donovan referred to him as a "phenomenal scorer." Point guard Gerald Robinson is also back and averaging 13.6 points.

"Probably a majority of their scoring is coming from their backcourt." Donovan said. "That's not to say their frontcourt players aren't capable, but they're a little young and going through it for the first time. They're a basketball team that is very explosive on the open floor.

"A lot of what they're doing now is you better focus on their backcourt guys because they're very explosive offensively."

The Bulldogs also lost their impact players from the frontcourt last season.

"They're a little different than a year ago," Donovan said. "They had incredible size and strength across the front line, and they still have some big guys, but their front line was really experienced."

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