- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2012

The Washington Wizards introduced their first-round pick Bradley Beal in a news conference Friday. Alongside Beal were team president Ernie Grunfeld, coach Randy Wittman, his parents, and, yes, even a birthday cake.

Beal was given the gift of a lifetime on Thursday night, being selected as the third overall pick in the NBA draft on his 19th birthday. He couldn’t be happier to be in the nation’s capital.

“As soon as I got here, I felt like it was right,” Beal said. “I didn’t have that feeling going into the other cities [I worked out in].

“Once [Michael Kidd-] Gilchrist went at second, I was like, ‘OK, this is a big relief,’ and I didn’t have to worry about anything else.”

Beal’s parents sat off to his left in the front row, his father wearing the bright red Wizards draft day hat, his mother in an equally bright red shirt, smiles across their faces the whole time. Beal attributed his success to his parents, in particular his mother.

“She’s the main one who taught me how to shoot,” Beal said, explaining how he mastered his footwork. “People really frown their face when I say that, like, ‘Seriously?”.

With all the skills Beal has picked up through high school and from his lone year at Florida, he must now transition to the professional game. New teammate John Wall and Beal share many similarities, so the transition may be a little easier than expected. Both played in the Southeastern Conference, left their schools after only one year, were drafted as lottery picks, play the guard position, and have now met up in Washington.

“Hopefully I can help out the backcourt with John [Wall]”, Beal said. “I’m really looking forward to it.

“John plays fast and can control the team. I think that I can help him out a lot with spacing out the floor, getting penetration for him. … Hopefully I’ll be able to contribute the best I can.”

Wittman and Grunfeld had been targeting Beal all along. After last Wednesday’s trade that sent forward Rashard Lewis to New Orleans in exchange for forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, Beal’s spot on the team was all but guaranteed. The only thing standing in the way was the Charlotte Bobcats with the No. 2 selection.

“We were a little scared he wouldn’t be there,” said Wittman. “He’s the guy we wanted all along.”

Now that Beal is finally in Washington, the newest Wizard is getting used to life in the big city.

“Well, it’s the nation’s capital,” said a smiling Beal when asked what he knows about D.C. “I don’t really know too much about it. I just know it’s a great city.”

The next step for Beal is to suit it up for the summer league in Las Vegas later this summer.

“It’s been a while since I actually played five-on-five,” said Beal. “I’m really looking forward to getting back to that, getting adjusted to the new style of basketball, longer quarters, the whole style of play.”

Beal is now the second 19-year-old talent to hit the big stage in Washington. Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals already has seen success on a first-place ball club. Something apparently Beal hasn’t noticed.

“[Yesterday] I didn’t know who Bryce Harper was. I saw him on TV last night. I mean he’s doing tremendous with the Nationals … even though if he plays against the Cardinals, I can’t root for him.”

Beal is a native of the St. Louis area, where he continues to root for the Cardinals, Rams and Blues.

It was the first time in the modern history of the NBA draft that three freshmen were the first three overall picks. Although Beal had some doubt about leaving his Gator teammates, he knew in the end it was the right decision to leave school after his only season.

“It was really a hard decision for me because I wanted to stay in school to hopefully work towards my degree,” said Beal, who will now wear No. 3 after wearing No. 23 in college. “I knew next year we were going to be a pretty good team, but at the end of the day, my dream was right in front me.”