Bradley Beal didn’t have to wait long. On Thursday night, the former Florida Gators guard was selected No. 3 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. With Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – both of Kentucky – going No. 1 and No. 2, Beal made it three SEC freshman in a row. That marked the first time since 1986 – before any of the three were alive – that one conference supplied the first three selections.
Beal joins a team looking to change its image and practically everything else about it. The Wizards are building for the future around John Wall – another former Kentucky No. 1 overall – and have begun to add pieces to the puzzle recently. Washington traded for Nene during the 2011-12 season and recently added Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor to the mix. With Beal joining the group, that’s a solid lineup that should be able to build on last season’s 20-46 record.
The former Gator should fit in well as something of a combo guard in the NBA. Beal is a pure shooter that many have described as the next coming of Ray Allen. Listed at 6’3″, size could be an issue for Beal, but he plays strong and moves well to the rim when the need arises. With a fluid shot and a solid all-around game, Beal should have little trouble adapting to the NBA and becoming a valuable part of Washington’s rebuilding plans.
Being drafted wasn’t the only thing that made Beal’s Thursday night a good one. He also celebrated his 19th birthday. On his birthday, Beal became the second former Florida star selected No. 3 overall, matching the feat accomplished by Al Horford in 2007. Neal Walk still holds the title of highest Gator selected. He went No. 2 overall to the Phoenix Suns in 1969.
The Gators will miss Beal tremendously in the 2012-13 season, but he made the right move entering the draft. There were a few outliers that had him falling to the second half of the first round, but anyone that knew anything about his game had him as a lock for the top five. It’ll be tough to not have the opportunity to watch him in orange and blue anymore, but rewarding at the same time to watch him in the NBA.