He will finish his career as just the fifth player in school history to score 1,000 points and rank in the top 10 in assists and steals. He has an opportunity to be the winningest player in school history. He has led the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio the past two seasons. Yet he has never earned all-SEC recognition. Can you name this Commodore? Chances are you didn’t guess senior point guard Jermaine Beal. If you did, you guessed correctly.
Despite statistically ranking as one of the top players in school history, Beal has managed to put together one of the finest careers in Vanderbilt history with very little fanfare.
Just how has he managed to do what he has done so quietly?
Is it because he doesn’t make highlight reels with acrobatic dunks, no-look passes or scoring binges? Is it because he has been overshadowed by more proficient scorers such as Derrick Byars, Shan Foster, A.J. Ogilvy and now Jeffery Taylor? Whatever the reason, it hasn’t affected Beal’s game. Instead he has been a model of consistency for the Commodores, which is exactly what he wants.
“Whenever you work out, you try to be consistent,” said Beal, who is the only senior on Vanderbilt’s roster. “So whenever it’s game time, it is second nature to me to be consistent. Whenever it is game time, the nerves aren’t there because I’m prepared.”
Take Vanderbilt’s early-season win against Arizona at the Maui Invitational, for example. The Commodores won the game 84-72. Grabbing the headlines were the reemergence of A.J. Ogilvy (game-high 20 points) and the double-double by Jeffery Taylor. For Beal it was just another day at the office: 18 points, five assists, one turnover and two steals.
The stat line was typical Beal. All players have their highs and lows during a season, but the difference with Beal is that lows happen fewer than they do for most. In Beal’s 66 starts entering the 2009-10 season, he had only committed more turnovers than assists in nine games.
“Jermaine is a very steady guy, and he’s been steady throughout the course of his career in terms of taking care of the ball,” Head Coach Kevin Stallings said. “It is good to have a point guard that you know is good at taking care of it. He’s a steadying influence for our team. He’s become a terrific outside shooter, and there is not a lot that he’s not good at on the basketball court.”
Beal’s consistency also has been vital to the Commodores’ success. During his sophomore and junior seasons when Beal became entrenched in the starting lineup, the Commodores lost 22 games. In 17 of the 22 losses, Beal failed to reach double figures in scoring. Last year, Beal failed to reach double figures in scoring 10 times and the Commodores won just three of those games.
The saying is that the numbers don’t lie. Given the aforementioned numbers, it has boded well for the Commodores that Beal has taken on more of a scoring role as a junior and senior. During the 2008-09 season Beal scored 20 or more points four times, including a career-best 27 against South Carolina.
“I knew that in order for our team to win, I had to step it up in scoring,” Beal said. “For me it was a challenge, so in the summer I would come in and try to improve my shooting.”
In addition to consistency, Beal’s other constant quality is that he is a winner. He won a state title at DeSoto High School in Texas, and he has continued his winning ways in college. If the Commodores win 21 games this season, Beal will become the winningest player in school history. Entering this season, he has been a part of 67 wins. The most wins over a four-year span are 87 by the 1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68 teams.
His winning mentality also has played a role in why he has been on the end of many memorable plays for the Commodores, including game-winning baskets over Toledo in 2006 and at South Carolina in 2008. Having won those games has provided Beal with the confidence needed to win a game at the end of regulation.
“I want the ball at the end of the game, and I feel like I’ve earned it,” Beal said. “I have the confidence to shoot it and the confidence to make it.”
The combination of Beal’s consistent play and winning ways has provided Stallings with the perfect player for a team that is heavy on underclassmen.
“If you are only going to have one senior, it might as well be your point guard,” Stallings said. “We are fortunate in that respect that he has all the games behind him, and he’s got all the experience behind him, and he is good. He’s not just experienced, he’s also good. He’s going to need to be good all season long for us.”
As the team’s lone senior, Beal would seem to be a natural fit to step into the role of being the team’s vocal leader, but since he’s soft spoken, he would rather lead by example than with words.
“Being a leader is a challenge, but I remember watching leaders like Shan (Foster), Red (Gordon) and Derrick Byars, so I’ve had other leaders ahead of me to learn from,” Beal said. “Whenever I was young, I tried to do everything that they did during practice and in preparation.”
One player in particular Beal has helped mentor is sophomore Brad Tinsley, who backs up Beal at point guard and starts at shooting guard.
“He’s been a great influence on me both on and off the court,” Tinsley said. “It speaks volumes just to have an older player at your position. If something is going wrong, he is usually there to step in and say, ‘This is what you should do or this is what you did wrong.’ He is a great guy and a great player to try to emulate your game after.”
When Beal concludes his senior season, he will leave as one of the most successful players to ever don the Black and Gold.
“It’s my last go around, so obviously I want to go out and leave some kind of legacy,” Beal said.
No matter what he does, he may have already left a legacy of being one of the most underappreciated players to ever play at Vanderbilt or in the SEC.