Bradley Beal has four brothers, and they are big guys — we’re talking 240-plus pound oxes. They are much bigger than Bradley, who is the middle of the five. Bruce, 24, went to Alabama State, a hog on the varsity football team’s offensive line. Brandon, 26, was a tight end at Northern Illinois. Both older brothers will soon be moving to Washington, D.C. to help Bradley get acclimated to his new life as an NBA player.
Then there are the twins, Byron and Bryon. Both currently attend the same high school Bradley did, Chaminade in St. Louis, MO. Both play football, the guard and tackle positions. Even Bradley’s father, Bobby, is an ex-football player.
“I played strong safety a hundred pounds ago at Kentucky State University,” he told me, which is also where he met his wife, Besta. The proud mother wore Florida Gator orange on draft night and is an athlete herself, having played both volleyball and basketball at Kentucky State.
Still, with such a heavy football influence, why are we talking about Brad Beal the NBA draft pick and not Brad Beal the linebacker? Blame mom.
“Brad was an all-around athlete,” his father told me. “He played shortstop in baseball. He was a quarterback, he was a punter, a kicker, wide receiver, running back — in football, he played it all. He played football up until his 9th grade year in high school, and my wife said, ‘Look, you’re smaller than the rest of the guys, you better go ahead and just concentrate on basketball.’ That’s kind of what did it. She didn’t let him go back out for his sophomore season, so that kind of ended that.”
Basketball it was. Relayed from a pre-draft article in USA Today by Kevin Massoth, Besta used to drive her sons to the local YMCA basketball court at night. Brad had to practice scoring against his bruising brothers.
When did Beal think he could be a pro?
“Probably the end of my high school career,” Beal said after being selected third overall by the Washington Wizards. “People have always been telling me the potential that I had, college coaches have always been telling me that. I really took it upon myself to always stay focused, stay grounded, and always just want to keep getting better and keep competing and try to be the best I can be. I didn’t know it was going to come this fast, here I am today.”
Dad saw something way before that.
“When he got to be about 10 years old, he was in fifth grade, I knew he was going to be special then when he had an AAU tournament in Lexington, Kentucky,” dad said. “In the first half, he hit eight 3s in a row — 10 years old, off a jump shot. And we knew then he was going to be special, but not to this magnitude. No one could have ever thought of this, but he just kept working, kept working, kept working, and he got good at it.”
But it’s not just football strength and power that helped define Beal’s game. Dad says there’s a cerebral part as well that Wizards fans can look forward to watching.
“His decision-making, and also his court awareness. He can shoot, he can score, and he can rebound with the best guards in the country. But I think he’s going to make a big impact with his court awareness — getting people the ball that the ball should be getting to, and just his overall IQ.”
Beal fits the toughness mold that the Washington franchise is trying to establish. And by most accounts — including his mature, professional interview demeanor — he’s not the goofy, shot-jacking type that Wizards fans got used to from characters like Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young.
With Beal at the third pick, the Wizards franchise can finally, honestly, claim that the team is ready to start a new tradition. Buckle that chin strap; this should be fun.