Freshman guard Bradley Beal has lived up to his lofty recruiting status in his first season at Florida.
The 6-foot-3, 2011 Gatorade National of the Year ranks eighth in the Southeastern Conference in scoring (14.1 ppg) and 16th in rebounding (5.8 rpg). He’s earned SEC freshman of the week honors four times this season, including this past week following a 19-point performance against Mississippi State.
Florida coach Billy Donovan said he has no concerns about Beal wearing down at this point. Beal ranks fourth in the SEC in minutes played at 33.5 per game.
“He gives us a really good rebounder at that small forward spot, so we need him out there,” Donovan said. “I (pressed) him a little more for the Mississippi State game and the quick turnaround coming out of Ole Miss on Thursday. I’m not really that worried about him right now.”
Playing undersized at the small forward spot, Beal has had to match up with bigger bodies defensively in SEC play and so far has held his own. Beal came into the season last October at a muscular 207 pounds in part to withstand the physical pounding through February and March.
Donovan said he’s seen no signs of physical fatigue from Beal.
“I think the biggest thing that happens, more than anything else, is that they get mentally fatigued,” Donovan said. “I have not seen that mental fatigue on him yet. Or physical.
“I think right now he’s fine. Not saying that can’t happen maybe several weeks from now. But right now I feel pretty good where he’s at.”
— Florida’s Ratings Percentage Index jumped 21 spots to No. 15 following wins over Mississippi and Mississippi State. The Gators improved to 3-2 against RPI Top 50 teams and are 4-2 against RPI Top 100 teams. There are currently six SEC teams in the RPI Top 50, which will give Florida chances to improve its RPI. The Gators still have two games left with Kentucky (5 RPI), Vanderbilt (26 RPI) and one game left with Alabama (36 RPI). The Gators could also face Mississippi State (35 RPI) and/or Ole Miss (40 RPI) down the road in the SEC Tournament.
— Donovan said that junior forward Erik Murphy is a better shooter at this point in his career than Matt Bonner. “I’m not sure Matt wants to hear that,” he quipped. Murphy is shooting a team-high 48.5 percent (33-68) from 3-point range this season. Murphy and Bonner are often compared to one another because of their ability to shoot from 3-point range from the power forward spot, which stretches opposing defenses.
— Former Florida center Kenny Kadji is continuing his strong season down the road at Miami. In ACC games, Kadji ranks sixth in the conference in scoring (16.5 ppg), ninth in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and third in blocked shots (2.0 bpg). Kadji transferred from Florida to Miami during the summer of 2010, after missing most of the 2009-10 season with a bulging disc in his lower back.
— Junior guard Kenny Boynton is shooting just 33 percent (13-39) from 3-point range in SEC games, Boynton shot 46.7 percent (57-122) from 3-point range during the non-conference schedule.