Florida's Beal learning to overcome adversity
This is all new to Florida guard Bradley Beal.
The missed shots. The defensive mistakes. The mounting turnovers.
One of the nation's top recruits last year, Beal has never struggled like this. Not as a kid growing up in St. Louis. Not in high school. Not in any of his all-star leagues.
So the freshman is having to adjust on the fly - just as the Gators (12-4) delve into Southeastern Conference play. Florida, which fell to No. 19 in the latest Associated Press college basketball poll, hosts Georgia on Tuesday night.
''I've been going through a lot, but I'm not really letting it affect me mentally,'' Beal said Monday. ''I'm really just trying to be mentally tough and just trying to fight through it.''
Although Beal still ranks second on the team in scoring at 14.1 points a game, his numbers have dropped in recent weeks. Over the last four games, Beal has made 14 of 47 shots, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range, and has more turnovers (14) than assists (9). Not coincidentally, the Gators lost two of those games.
''One of the most difficult things, when you're going through a stretch with difficulty as a freshman as talented and as good as he is, he's never dealt with anything like this before,'' coach Billy Donovan said. ''He just hasn't. Most of the time when he was in high school, (he said), `I'll just play harder. I'm better than everybody.'
''Now he's in a situation where shots aren't falling, the game's a little faster, and now it's almost like, `OK, well, how do I get through this?'''
When things aren't going well, Donovan would like to see Beal focus on things like rebounding, passing and playing defense.
''That's an area of growth he's got to go through whether he misses a drive, layup, misses a 3, he can still rebound, he can still defend, he can put it on the floor, he can pass,'' Donovan said.
Beal was named the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year after averaging 32.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists at Chaminade Prep. His skills quickly transferred to the college level, with Beal earning a starting spot in Donovan's opening day lineup and then drawing early comparisons to smooth-shooting NBA guard Ray Allen.
Beal established himself as one of Donovan's best freshmen at Florida, right up there with Mike Miller, by shooting, scoring, driving, rebounding, passing and playing defense.
Injuries to fellow guards Mike Rosario and Casey Prather forced Donovan to rely more on Beal than he wanted in the first two months of the season. That could be taking a toll, but Donovan insisted this is just the ups and downs of being a freshman.
''He's capable, and I've got all the confidence in the world in him,'' Donovan said. ''And he's a good kid and he wants to do well and he's trying, but I've got to try to help him through it. And he's got to help himself through it. But it's not really a slump or anything else like that.
''It's college basketball, you know. This is part of the deal. At this level, it's not easy. It's just not, and you've got to embrace and accept that challenge and the confrontation and come through adversity. You have to accept that and take that on, that it's going to be difficult.''
One thing Beal doesn't have to worry about is confidence.
Although Donovan said Beal has a tendency to take a step back when things aren't going well and let his teammates do more, Beal doesn't believe anything will weaken his belief in himself.
''My confidence will never be shaken,'' Beal said. ''My teammates always have confidence in me. And coaches do, as well, and I have confidence in myself. If things aren't going my way, I don't ever lose confidence.''
His teammates agree.
''Just keep playing,'' forward Erik Murphy said. ''He's obviously a great player, really knows how to play the game, and it'll come to him. It's going to go away, just got to keep pushing through it.''