— Earned an invite to a Team USA mini-camp next month.
Whew. A pretty hectic — not to mention impressive — year, especially for a teenager.
“It’s overwhelming at times,” says Beal, who turns 20 on Friday. “I’ve always dreamt these things and set them as goals but I never, ever imagined they would happen this fast.”
Well, injuries weren’t part of the dream but at least the hairline fracture in his right leg has allowed Beal some down time. Since his season was cut short on April 2, Beal has not been allowed to do any running or jumping. At all. When was the last time he’s taken a 12-plus week break from basketball?
“I’ve never done that before,” he says.
Beal isn’t sure when he will be cleared to start offseason training, either. “Hopefully in the next few weeks,” he says.
Beal is sure he will be limited to helping with a few shooting-type drills at next week’s camp. He’s sure he won’t be ready to play in the Wizards’ Summer League games next month. He’s pretty sure he won’t do more than watch at the Team USA tryout camp later next month.
“It does suck not being able to do anything,” Beal says. “At the same time, this is where the doctor projected me to be. He said 12 weeks before I’d be running or jumping again. I have to be patient with it. It’s frustrating but you have to take care of your body first.”
Beal believes his right leg was fractured for two reasons: The grind of an NBA season on a 19-year-old and playing through sprained ankles much of the second half. “That constant pressure and force on my leg is what caused it,” he says.
While injuries hampered his second half, Beal had to overcome a shooting slump in the early part of the season. He went through a difficult adjustment at Florida, too, with one notable exception. At college, the 20-foot, 6-inch distance from the goal to the 3-point line wasn’t an issue. That was just nine inches deeper than the high school line.
But the NBA line is three feet, three inches beyond the college distance. “It’s a huge adjustment,” he says. “Guys are going to realize it’s a lot further than they think.”
For Beal, the distance was only part of the problem. He also missed not seeing any other 3-point lines on the floor. With no other lines to add perspective, 23-9 seemed even greater.
“The depth perception really messes with you,” Beal says.
Beal made just 9 of 49 3-pointers (18.4 percent) in December but then he found his stroke. He hit 32 of 68 (50.8 percent) in January, which not coincidentally, was when point guard John Wall returned. All of a sudden, the rookie wasn’t drawing as much attention from opposing defenses. All of a sudden, he had a little more room to get off his jumper.
Now he says the college 3-point line looks like a mid-range jumper. Beal says he can shoot the NBA 3-pointer without having to jump, a sign that not only reflects increased comfort but added strength. “I’m a lot more adjusted to it now,” he says. “I’m strong in the upper body but overall, it’s now having confidence.”
Beal was speaking on the phone from his home in St. Louis earlier this week. He says he will split the off-season between home and D.C. with a trip to Vegas for the Team USA mini-camp. Even though he won’t be able to participate much, he is looking forward to running his own basketball camp for the first time.
As an NBA player, I guess I’m kind of a big deal to kids,” he says. “This is a chance for me to give back a little, to show my faith and appreciation to the kids and teach them the game a little bit.”
Just two summers ago, Beal was one of those kids playing summer ball and getting ready for college. Much has happened since, and he hopes to be even busier in the coming weeks.
“As soon as I get cleared, I’ll be out back out there trying to get better,” he says. “I have a lot of room to improve.”
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.