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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Freshman Beal declares for NBA Draft

<p>Florida guard Brad Beal declared for the NBA Draft on Monday after a stellar freshman campaign in which he led the Gators in minutes played and rebounding. Beal is projected to be a lottery pick in the June 28 draft.</p>

Florida guard Brad Beal declared for the NBA Draft on Monday after a stellar freshman campaign in which he led the Gators in minutes played and rebounding. Beal is projected to be a lottery pick in the June 28 draft.

For the last four days, Brad Beal has been patiently sitting on his decision to forgo his remaining three years of eligibility at Florida and enter the NBA Draft.

After weeks of deliberation and weighing his options with family, coaches and friends, Beal finally made up his mind on Monday.

In an emotional meeting that day, he first broke the news to coach Billy Donovan. Beal described the conversation as almost gut-wrenching.

“It was hard to just tell coach in his face that I was going to enter the draft,” Beal said. “Just the feeling, like the emotions I had, it was worse than losing the game against Louisville.”

While he would have to wait until a Friday morning press conference to make his decision public, Beal slowly let several of his teammates know his intentions throughout the week. Just before Beal’s announcement, the entire team gathered together to hear the news.

“Some of the reactions were the same, like they were aghast,” Beal said. “I told Casey earlier in the week, and I told Pat last night. Those guys were just at a loss for words really. Everyone was real happy for me.”

Beal is projected to be a lottery pick when the NBA Draft rolls around on June 28. While most publications and draft sites have Beal going in the top 10, ESPN’s Chad Ford has Beal slated as the No. 3 overall prospect.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard said seeing he could go potentially that early in the first round was like having his dream sitting directly in front of him.

“Really, it was just the right time for me,” Beal said. “Up to this day, like the April 10 deadline, I was more than sure that I was going to go past that. But when it came down to it, I just wanted to make sure I was comfortable telling coach and just comfortable with my decision. Just makes sure that I was 100 percent. There’s no looking back now.”

Though Beal also considered the possibility of returning to Florida – which lost just one senior this offseason – and attempting to win a national championship, the lure of realizing similar achievements at the NBA-level was just too great.

In his lone season at UF, Beal played a team-high 34.2 minutes per game and led the Gators in rebounding, despite being recruited as a shooting guard. At the conclusion of the regular season, he became the first Florida player to be named both first-team All-SEC and All-Freshman SEC in the same year.

“Selfishly, I’m going to miss not having the chance to coach him,” Donovan said. “But there’s no question just based on the information I was able to gather, the stuff I think he was able to find out, I don’t think there’s any question that right now he’s going to be somewhere in the top 10.”

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Donovan predicted that Beal is destined for a long career in the professional ranks as a team’s primary scorer. While Beal struggled with his long-distance shooting at times this season, he shot over 60 percent from the field during Florida’s Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament.

Beal finished the year as the Gators’ second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game behind only Kenny Boynton.

“There was really on my end nothing more than trying to help him look at this the right way and him having a level of peace,” Donovan said. “I think he’s at a place where he’s got some internal peace right now that he’s making the best decision with basically the information he’s been provided.”

In the coming weeks, Beal said he will get back to training for the draft and sit down to speak with several agents that Donovan has recommended.

Donovan praised his lone freshman starter throughout the season for his maturity on and off the court and added on Friday that Beal has handled the NBA decision-making process better than any player he’s coached in his 16 years at Florida.

Beal is the first one-and-done player to leave Florida since Donnell Harvey in 2000.

“Making this decision was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Beal said. “Everything about this place is beautiful and I’m real sad that I have to give it up for something else but there’s bigger things I want to accomplish with my life.”

Contact John Boothe at jboothe@alligator.org.

Florida guard Brad Beal declared for the NBA Draft on Monday after a stellar freshman campaign in which he led the Gators in minutes played and rebounding. Beal is projected to be a lottery pick in the June 28 draft.

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