The USA Basketball U-19 team spent the past weekend practicing at the Verizon Center before heading to Prague for the FIBA U-19 World Championship. The most famous fan in attendance was a guy who makes his living playing in the very same building. Bradley Beal played for USA coach Billy Donovan a couple of years ago at Florida before turning pro and being drafted by the Wizards. The St. Louis native was proudly wearing his red Cardinals baseball cap while working two cell phones simultaneously and watching his old coach try to turn a group of 12 teenagers into a cohesive unit. Jon Teitel got to spend some time talking with the former Gator about getting drafted by Washington, recovering from an injury, and how he will celebrate his 21st birthday next week.
You were named MVP of the 2010 FIBA U-17 World Championship after helping team USA to a gold medal by scoring a team-high 18.3 points per game. What advice do you have for this year’s U-19 team about what it takes to win a gold medal? Bring some Snickers. It is not always easy to find food you can eat overseas! It is all about the team so just focus on your goal, which is winning a gold medal. The foreign teams have players who are strong, fast, long and athletic at every position, which is different than what we are used to here in the US. It is also important to be selfless: all of your teammates are good so make sure you share the ball.
In 2011 you were named Gatorade National High School POY and a McDonald’s All-American. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding honors like that? It meant a lot. It showed that all my hard work had paid off, so people started to know who I was and began to recognize me. The Class of 2011 had some great players (Michael Carter-Williams, Anthony Davis, Cody Zeller, etc.), so there were a lot of strong candidates.
You played one year for USA U-19 coach Billy Donovan at Florida before turning pro. What makes him such a great coach? He is very hands-on and puts the players 1st. He is both a coach and a teacher and makes things easy to understand. He did not give me any guarantees, but told me what I had to do in order to get to the NBA.
On June 28, 2012 (your 20th birthday) you were drafted third overall by Washington Is that the best birthday gift you have ever received? It was a huge blessing, an honor, and a dream come true. I never thought I would get picked as high as third, so I was just thankful for the opportunity.
You wore #23 in college, why did you switch to #3 in the pros? Number three was the first number I ever wore as a kid. It is somewhat Biblical, but I also like it because Allen Iverson was my favorite player growing up.
In January you had a career-high six three pointers made in a loss to Sacramento: what is your secret for being a good three-point shooter? Confidence, which is all that shooting really is. You have to know that it will go in, and you prepare for that through your mechanics and your focus.
You got hurt in the final month of this past season and had to shut it down due to a leg injury, how are you feeling? I am getting better. I have gone over 10 weeks without getting back on the court, but I am coming along and only have about two or three more weeks of rehab.
You were named to the All-Rookie 1st-Team despite only playing 56 games. How were you able to make such a smooth transition from college to the pros? I just tried to relax and play ball. It is a learning experience, but I also try to have fun while helping out my team. I put pressure on myself and my teammates and coaches also work hard to help me succeed.
Your all-time favorite player is LeBron James, who just won his second straight Finals MVP award. What makes him so dominant? LeBron is probably the best player in the league, he leads by example on both ends of the court.
You turn 21 next Friday. What are you going to do for the big day? I am probably just going to stay home and celebrate with my family and friends. As I get older it becomes just another day!