Beal Headed to the NBA

Watching Brad Beal carry the Gators to the Elite Eight last season, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the freshman announced his intentions to declare for the NBA Draft. He waited longer than most expected, but Beal made it official on Friday morning. Despite being a lock to be taken in the lottery of the NBA Draft, it wasn't an easy decision for the guard to make.

"Making this decision was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life," Brad Beal said at his press conference on Friday morning. "It was hard to just tell coach to his face that I was going to enter the draft. The feeling and the emotion that I had, it was worse than losing the game against Louisville."

There were plenty of factors that went into the decision for Beal. He has come in as high as No. 2 in mock drafts and the feedback that Florida head coach Billy Donovan has gotten about his freshman matched that hype. Without confirming and listening to information with the NBA league offices and people who Donovan trusts at the next level, Beal might be returning to Gainesville for his sophomore campaign.

However, the opportunity to be picked in the top ten and probably much higher than that put Beal in a situation he had to take advantage of.

"If Brad was a guy that was between 20-30 (picks in the draft), there's no question in my mind that he would be back here," Donovan said. "Because of where he could potentially be picked, a lot of that became a big factor with the feedback I was getting from different people.

"I don't think there's any question that he'll be somewhere in the top ten. I think he's got an incredible opportunity to move up in the draft because a lot of people aren't privy to the information I'm privy to after having the opportunity to coach him this year. There's a definite realistic possibility that he's a top-five pick."

Since Florida's season came to an end one win short of the Final Four, Donovan and Beal met multiple times to discuss his status. Beal, who was second on the team with 14.8 points per game as a freshman, said he came to Gainesville expecting to play multiple years for the Gators, but as his stock soared with a positive end to the season, he was forced to look harder at the decision.

In the back of his mind was the draw to return to Gainesville and play with a group that returned all but point guard Erving Walker from last season.

"This place is great," Beal said. "I loved this year. My teammates were great and coaches were great. The school in general is just great. People treat you right here. Everything about this place is beautiful. I'm real sad that I have to give it up for something else, but I believe there are bigger things that I have to accomplish in my life."

The soaring draft stock was just too difficult for Beal to pass by and risk coming back for another year. That's why it took so long for the freshman to make his decision. He was weighing all of his options and trying to get as many opinions as possible to make sure that he would be as high of a pick as has been suggested.

He blocked out all outside voices and just listened to his family and Donovan.

"More so than any other player I've coached, being young and having a lot of years of eligibility in front of him, he may have been as mature as anybody I've been around for his age in terms of how he was looking at this decision and this process," Donovan said.

"There is such an influx of people who want to give their thoughts—people kind of come out of the woodworks. He really wanted to handle this with his family and then with myself talking to me quite a bit."

He told Casey Prather earlier in the week about his plans and shared them with Patric Young on Thursday night. He made it official by telling the rest of his teammates on Friday morning before the press conference.

It was tough after playing with them all season and growing close with his teammates, but they were all supportive of him. The draw to comeback with almost the same exact team and compete for a national championship was the main reason he almost returned.

"That is the number one reason," Beal said. "I know we were more than capable of (winning a national championship). I could've developed better leadership qualities and developed as a player and improve my skills."

Beal will now go about trying to find an agent. He doesn't know who it will be but trusts Donovan to line up two or three possibilities and let Beal and his family make the decision from there.

When the draft comes around on June 28, Beal doesn't know what to expect. His favorite team is the Miami Heat, but with them expected to pick late in the first round, he's realistic about the situation.

"I probably won't be playing for them," Beal said with a grin.

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