NCAA Tournament

Beal rebounds from first slump for Florida

Florida freshman Bradley Beal maintains he had never really experienced a slump before this season. Sounds crazy, but it’s not.

Thanks to his projectable frame, silky jumper and knack for scoring, Beal had NBA scouts drooling during his days at Chaminade Prep in St. Louis. He also racked up tons of scholarship offers, but chose Florida over Duke, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri early in his junior year.

By the time Beal, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound shooting guard, graduated last fall, he was a five-star recruit according to Rivals.com and the No. 4 overall prospect in the country.

But then he got to Florida. And while he has attracted plenty of attention during an impressive freshman season — he’s started all 33 games and is averaging 14.6 points — he isn’t impervious to typical freshman struggles.

No matter how good freshmen are, almost all of them go through a stretch where they don’t shoot, pass, defend or play well. Beal went through this in late December and early January, when he shot 29.8 percent from the field — including just two for 16 from three-point range — in a four-game stretch.

“I was just not playing well at all on both ends of the floor,” Beal said, “whether it was not rebounding or not making open shots or missing easy layups.”

So he focused on more than scoring. Beal averages a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game, which is more than the Gators’ five-star sophomore center, Patric Young, who averages 6.4 per game.

And in the last five games since sophomore forward Will Yeguette suffered a season-ending foot injury, Beal is pulling down almost eight rebounds per game.

“I took it among myself to … try to grab as many rebounds as I can,” Beal said.

This might sound familiar to Missouri fans; it’s the same thing the Tigers’ guards said to themselves once starting forward Laurence Bowers went down in the preseason.

Beal, who said he’s watched the Tigers play on TV a few times, came away impressed with coach Frank Haith’s group and says their guard-centric teams are fairly similar.

“I think they should be a No. 1 seed,” Beal said. “They really compete hard for a bunch of guards just like (us).”

Given the similar systems, did he even think that he’d be a good fit if he’d chosen Missouri?

“Just looking at the style of play, it’s kind of similar to ours, so I could say that,” Beal said, smiling.

Beal added that if he had committed to play for former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, he probably wouldn’t have been happy to see Anderson leave for Arkansas last March.

“I think I made the right decision,” Beal said.

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