This story appeared in the St. Louis edition of the November ESPN RISE Magazine.
The Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) boys' hoop team trailed rival Christian Brothers College High by three points with just seconds to go in the third-place game of last year's Pattonville Tournament. The Red Devils had clawed their way back to get to that point, yet they still needed a last-second miracle to send the game into overtime.
As daunting as the situation appeared, Chaminade still had a chance thanks to the presence of Brad Beal. A sophomore at the time, Beal was the reason the Red Devils were still in the game at all. Chaminade trailed by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, but Beal had gone off to cut a huge chunk out of the deficit.
And now, with the game on the line, Chaminade coach Kelvin Lee knew his super soph would come through. So when Beal launched a last-second shot from halfcourt with the clock winding down, Lee confidently turned to his bench and predicted the shot would go in. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the ball dropped through the cylinder for the game-tying 3-pointer as time expired.
"He's money in the bank in crunch time," Lee says.
Chaminade then dominated CBC in the extra session en route to a 92-85 victory. Beal finished with a tournament-record 52 points, including an incredible 26 in the fourth, and he added six rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks.
"He's just so talented that he was able to do it against us with people all over him," says CBC head coach Bob McCormack. "And then he threw in a halfcourt shot."
In the past 12 months, Beal has proven himself a big-game performer time and time again. When it's all on the line, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound junior combo guard knows how to deliver.
Rated the nation's No. 15 recruit in the ESPNU Super 60, Beal led Chaminade to the Missouri Class 5 state title last season and then helped Team USA win gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship this past summer. He has some of college basketball's top programs knocking down his door as a result, including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Duke and Ohio State.
His ability to score at will is one thing, but Beal is so hotly recruited because of his all-around game. He's an underrated passer who can play both guard spots, knock it down from long range and also defend. Add in his fearlessness at crunch time, and you can see why college coaches are battling to get him on their campus.
Aside from a case of butterflies before last year's state final, Beal doesn't get nervous, which is a natural extension of his off-court demeanor. His mom, Besta, says he's the quietest of her five boys. Beal is so smooth on the hardwood that he's drawn comparisons to Boston Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen.
"I'm always calm in everything I do," Beal says. "I enjoy playing the game, but it's just a game. In order to win, you can't be scared to take chances sometimes. You can't be afraid during crunch time. You've got to play the same way you did the entire game."
Beal had a few flashes of brilliance during a freshman season in which he averaged 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a starter in a balanced offensive attack. But last season, he was expected to shoulder more of the scoring load. Beal embraced the challenge from the start, dropping 23 points on Maplewood-Richmond Heights in a season-opening 62-59 win.
He continued to pour it on throughout the season, averaging 23.5 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting on 3-pointers. He also contributed 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.1 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. And he was particularly dynamic during the playoffs.
Beal sank the game-winning free throw with 1.4 seconds left and scored a game-high 19 points in a 66-65 win over Rock Bridge in the state semifinals. He followed with a team-high 30 points to lift Chaminade past Grandview, 80-70, for its first state title.
Lee was impressed by Beal's postseason run, but he still counts the 52-point performance against CBC as the greatest he's seen at the high school level. And that's saying something considering he coached current New York Knicks standout David Lee (no relation) at Chaminade.
"David Lee put on quite a few shows, but I have to say that was the best," says the 13th-year Chaminade head coach. "When he got it going, it was unbelievable."
Don Showalter had the same reaction while coaching Beal with the USA Basketball Men's U16 National Team this past summer at the FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina. Beal paced the team in scoring at 19 points per game in five contests and poured in a game-high 26 as the U.S. toppled the host country, 101-87, in the gold medal game.
"He was the one our players looked to get the ball to because they knew if he was open he was going to knock it down," says Showalter, who's the boys' basketball coach at Mid-Prairie (Wellman, Iowa). "He's a player who wants the ball in his hands when he knows we need to score."
Earning a gold medal was an experience Beal will never forget.
"It meant a lot to represent your country, and it really touched everybody when we won," he says.
Though Beal has already accomplished a lot during his high school career, his parents, Besta and Bobby, both former athletes at Kentucky State, won't let him rest on his laurels. His mom, a former basketball player, and his dad, a former football player, regularly challenge their son to games of HORSE and Around the World. If Beal loses, he has to run.
The practice has helped prepare Beal for a junior season in which he'll be relied upon even more after the graduation of All-State guard Brandon Lockhart.
"I know that I have to carry the team," Beal says. "And I'm up to the challenge."
He's already proved that many times over.
Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.