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"He May Be the Best Player I've Ever Coached"

June 25, 2013

Jeremy Hyman |

Last week, Billy Donovan was at Verizon Center with the USA Men's U19 World Championship Team as he gets ready to take them to Prague to compete in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men. 

Monumental Network was able to arrange a sitdown with both Donovan and his former standout guard Bradley Beal for a Coaches' Corner. 

While there was plenty of great insight in the entire piece, there were a few points that stood out and really should be worth noting.  Since being drafted, there has been almost nothing but praise about Beal's character, but hearing some of these things from Coach Donovan (who joked that he recruited Beal longer than he coached him) really shed light on what kind of person Beal was.  

"Well the thing with Beal, and I told him this, obviously he's playing for some very very good coaches and a very very good organization and I think what happens is, it's the same thing at Florida, people have the understanding that when you're a Gatorade Player of the Year and deemed the number one high school player in the country, there's an expectation that he feels and no one knows what it's like to walk in his shoes. When you're the third player taken in the draft there's an expectation that he placed upon himself on what kind of impact he wants to make.  And what happens is when he goes through some of those things, a lot people with very very good intentions are trying to help him through it and I think he's always done better because he is so mature and he is so smart when he blocks everything else out and locks into what makes him happy and what he knows he needs to do and plays with a clear head. He's as good as any player I've ever coached. 

He's got to keep his head clear because I think he doesn't want to feel like he let his teammates down or his coaches down, the organization down, or me down, or Florida down even when he was in college. But a lot of people don't understand the amount of pressure he places on himself in terms of, not from a selfish stand point, but him wanting to give to a team, to his teammates, to an organization and I've always admired that because that to me a is a true quality sign of his unselfishness of wanting to perform and play well."

Some other interesting notes from the interview included how much research the Wizards front office did before drafting Beal and how they never talked about basketball.  They wanted to know about who Beal the person was before drafting him at #3.  Donovan could not have said any more glowing things about Beal's character and how much he cared about team basketball, which in hindsight makes it feel that Beal was destined to be a Wizard.    

The final part that really stood out from the interview was about Beal's decision-making process when he was determining whether or not to enter the NBA.  From the sounds of it, Beal took a long time to reach this decision and took a very calculated approach having conversations with many important people in the process.  Read what Donovan said stood out to him when they had their conversation about the league: 

"Well for me, the one thing I wanted him to understand right from day one was that I was for him, whatever he wanted to do. I think the thing that's hard sometimes, like he said, is you have people telling you, "What? You're crazy, you're considering going back to college?" And people look at him with four heads. There wasn't anybody that was in touch outside of his mom, his dad, and his family, of what was in his heart, what he wanted to do. I was really impressed, he did the whole thing, he did everything. He went through the agent process, he picked his own agent, and obviously he had the guidance of his mom and dad. He was the one who totally made the decision, and here's the thing that was interesting, a lot of people don't know, his biggest fear of going into the NBA was he felt coming into college as a freshman, he was playing with some older guys, and he said, "Do you think I'm making a mistake by bypassing a step of being a go-to guy and a leader on the team, because I've never done that. Do you think that's going to hurt me if I go up there?" I thought, what an incredibly mature question to ask. It was never really about the money, it was never about that. It was about, what he did he need to do to be the best he could be."

I could not agree more with Donovan in this last part on asking such a mature question.  Not many 18 year-old kids with the talent of Bradley Beal would ever ask questions about missing a step in the development process, but Beal is well beyond his years.  From everything on the court to everything that comes off, the kid gets it.  And after one year, I think it's safe to say he made a wise choice.  The Wizards certainly aren't complaining.