Brad Beal spent the first month of his college career trying to figure out what his role on the team was. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker helped the Gators to the Elite Eight in 2011, and both were returning to the team. Beal didn't want to impose on a team that looked like theirs to lead.
He shied away from trying to become the main scorer and facilitator. That has changed recently.
It isn't just with Beal's scoring. The freshman leads the Gators with 6.7 rebounds per game and has become more of an impact player with the ball in his hands. Beal has posted three or more assists in four of the last five games.
His shot hasn't come back to where it was in high school, but the freshman isn't dwelling on it anymore. He's trying to help the team in other ways.
"Earlier in the year, he wasn't driving and putting it on the floor and attacking the basket the way he is now," Donovan said. "The thing I'm trying to get through to him is to stop worrying about the shot. (He's) a freshman. Most freshmen have their peaks and valleys shooting the basketball. (He does) too many things as a player that can really impact our team."
Donovan played a big part in Beal's leap. He challenged the freshman to step up and start being more aggressive with the ball. His teammates realize the impact it has when Beal is a big part of the offense.
"Our team realizes that when he does those things, it helped us tremendously," Donovan said. "I just needed to keep pushing him towards that. Brad needs a push a lot of times because he never wants to step out of bounds or put our chemistry in jeopardy. Sometimes he needs that push to let him know that's okay."
WALKER COMFORTABLE: The recent success for the Gators has also been helped by Erving Walker's emergence. The senior has spent the entire season trying to figure out his role of the offense, and he is settling in as the facilitator that can still score."For the past two years as a junior and sophomore, he was playing a certain way," Donovan said. "Then all of a sudden, things had to change for him for us to reach our potential. He went through an adjustment period that wasn't always easy for Erving. He wanted to do what I was asking him to do, but he got caught up in when to shoot and when not to shoot.
"It has been hard because he doesn't know where his shots are coming from because the ball is in his hands, and he has to facilitate the offense. He's learning and growing."
Walker has turned the ball over three times or more in just one of the last seven games. He isn't the vocal leader of the team because that isn't his style, but Walker can still be an emotional leader in the NCAA Tournament.
"When he's got a real competitive mindset and that look on his face, it impacts our team," Donovan said. "Sometimes when he gets frustrated or down, that impacts our team. That's something that for him as a senior—there probably aren't a lot of seniors that have had to go through what he has gone through this year. That's something I've been pleased with. He is trying to do the things that we're asking him to do."