In just over two months Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal will take the stage in New York, NY, shake commissioner David Stern’s hand and put on a hat representing the team that selected him early in the 2012 NBA Draft.
But before that day arrives, Beal must first hire an agent, attend league-affiliated events and take part in private workouts and interviews with interested teams. OGGOA spoke with three former Florida players the day Beal announced his decision to go pro and each was quick to offer plenty of advice for him as he takes the next step in his career.
Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and second highest-drafted UF player in school history (Neal Walk, No. 2), actually spoke with Beal while he was in the process of making his decision and said that no matter what he decided to do he had to concentrate each day on doing whatever it takes to improve as a player both on and off the court.
“I had a chance to speak with him right after the season,” Horford said. “He is very, very talented, so my advice to him was just to focus on working on his game and to make sure he got stronger. The most important thing is just to keep working and keep getting better because he has a lot of potential. He showed some positive things throughout the season, but he has a lot more to offer in the long run if he can get there.”
Horford did not attempt to influence Beal’s final decision one way or another and pointed out that the sharpshooter’s game may even be at a higher level than even his was after his sophomore season.
“He was asking me what I thought about his situation as far as him having to make a decision about whether to stay or go. I went through that experience. For me it worked out that I stuck around another year and I was able to get better,” he explained.
“He’s very talented, so I think that he was way ahead of what everybody would expect from a freshman. He’s a guard, and I told him that if it is something you want to do to then go for it. He could have stayed in school and worked on his game, but he’s talented enough to go to the NBA. With hard work and everything, he will be a good player in this league.”
Horford would have been a first-round pick if he left after his sophomore season but wound up returning, winning a second-straight national championship and improving his draft stock by approximately a dozen spots. Even with his top-five projection in 2007, Horford still struggled with his decision to leave the Gators and understood that Beal was going through a similar conflict.
“This might sound cliché or whatever but for me it [the hardest part of the process] was leaving Florida, leaving UF. Yeah. Even after everything that we did – won a couple national championships and everything – I didn’t want to leave what I had there. I thought we had something real special going,” he said.
“I think it was the right time for us. I was ready to make that next step. But just leaving Florida was tough. I enjoyed my time at school at the University of Florida. I made the most of it with all the other guys. The hardest thing for me was just leaving school period, and I think it was for him, too.”
Two more former Gators – forwards Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin – entered the NBA in 2011 following strong senior campaigns. However, neither was fortunate enough to be in the same position that Beal finds himself in this year – a unanimous lottery pick and near-unanimous top-five selection.
Parsons, who wound up being selected No. 38 overall in the second round by the Houston Rockets, was working hard to earn a first-round grade while Macklin (No. 52 overall to the Detroit Pistons) did whatever he could to be noticed in the second round.
Both said that travelling across the country and going through such a high number of strenuous workouts – Parsons attended 17 while Macklin competed in at least a dozen – was the toughest part of the process for them.
“Going through the process, he’s a little more highly-touted than I was coming out. He’s a one-and-done obviously – predicted lottery pick – so he won’t he won’t have as much to grind as I did with workouts. He just has to go out there and show his skills,” Parsons explained.
“My advice to him would be not to put too much pressure on any one workout because they all saw what he can do over the course of the year. I would just go out there and have fun with it, show that you can really shoot the ball. The biggest thing going into the workouts is being in shape. You don’t want to get tired. You want to show that you can go all day. I would tell him to be in the best shape of his life and be prepared for any situation, just go out there and have fun and show the scouts what you can do.
“It was a great decision on his part to come out after a great year. Obviously he’s talented enough skill-wise and he’s a great kid. He has all the characteristics of a great pro.”
Macklin said he agreed with Parsons’s sentiments but also suggested Beal heed the advice and experience of Donovan throughout his journey to the pros.
“Obviously Brad is in a way better situation than me and Chandler was but at the end of the day it’s still about business,” he said. “I think Coach Donovan does a great job of getting guys prepared for the draft. He talks to you about everything that you’re going to experience, picks your brain and gets you ready.
“My best advice to Brad is to let Coach Donovan, his family and his agent take care of the outside stuff while he handles the basketball – training, getting in good shape. He has a great competitive spirit, so he just needs to stay competitive and go out and work out like it’s the last time you’re going to play. I think Brad is a great kid and his talent and ability is the reason why he’s in the position he’s in right now. Brad just has to keep going the way he is – play hard and train even harder before the draft.”
Macklin said he and Donovan were in contact almost daily as he prepared to enter the league. He recounted one occasion in which Donovan rattled off opinions that a handful of teams had formed on Macklin and gave him suggestions on how to catch their eye at his upcoming workouts.
“Coach Donovan was always there for me and to this day I still talk to him all the time and he tells me to hang in there and keep working hard,” he said. “Coach Donovan will always be around guys that have a great spirit and played hard for him.”
Parsons pointed out that he also valued Donovan’s input when it came to selecting his agent; he ended up choosing Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports & entertainment.
“I interviewed five agents after the season, and basically [Bartelstein] was very prepared. He was organized. I trusted him,” he said. “David Lee had a big impact on me because he was his agent. Coach Donovan has a great relationship with Mark and I trust and value his opinion a lot as well. After my family met with him, I just felt most comfortable with him. He’s got a great reputation and is the most powerful agent in the business so to me it was a no-brainer.”
Beal, who went to the same high school as Lee and spoke to him on a few occasions before and after he committed to Florida, also appears to value Donovan’s opinion and could wind up heading in that direction as well when it comes to his representation.
No matter which agent he chooses or which suit he purchases for the draft, Beal’s future will be determined first and foremost by his ability.
Macklin emphasized that though guys like he and Parsons had to work extra hard after the season for their shot, Beal being projected as a higher pick does not mean that he has the ability to take a single day off or start expecting things to come to him.
“We were in the position where we had to make sure we did everything better and go harder than the guys who might be drafted higher than us,” he said. “Brad won’t be able to let up just because he’s a lottery pick. I know he’s a great kid and is going to work hard, but he is going to have to keep that same focus now every single day for the rest of his career.”
If Beal remains as focused as he was in his only collegiate postseason, the draft process should be a relative breeze.
Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/Associated Press