Nov. 7, 2009
Purchase 2009-10 Season Tickets
The scene was striking, yet familiar: As his teammates flocked onto the floor before their 2:45 deadline to make the 3:00 practice, he had already been dressed and hard at work for almost half an hour.
His demeanor was relaxed, yet focused: Showing no signs of letting up, he feverishly worked under the basket on his finishes just as he hopes to finish his Vanderbilt career in style.
Most telling, though, was that he was alone: On a court filled with gregarious teammates laughing while shooting around, senior guard Jermaine Beal was by himself on the basket in the far corner of the gym, seemingly unfazed by the slightest distraction in his preparation to take Vanderbilt back to the top of the SEC.
"He's got to be a leader and run our team," said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. "He's had a great impact because he's worked as hard as any guy we've ever had here. He has really, really improved because of that hard work."
The improvements were palpable as Beal progressed through last season, raising his scoring average to 12.5 points per contest while still maintaining an assist-to-turnover ratio (2.02) that was good enough to lead the SEC. Also telling was his growth as an outside threat, with his three point accuracy increasing by 90 percentage points (from .313 to .403) last season, giving Beal another weapon in his arsenal as he leads the Commodores into battle.
"I guess you can say I've matured (as a player)," Beal said. "I'm more experienced so I'm a smarter player, and since I'm a point guard, I have to take care of the ball. My main thing is to make sure that our bunch is steadying, going smooth, and looking good. It's my last year so I'm just trying to go out with a bang right now."
The strides Beal has made in his game are no secret around Vanderbilt basketball, especially amongst the players. Hence, because of how hard Beal works, he is viewed as the team's quiet, yet confident leader by teammates and coaches alike.
"I think he's an easy guy for his teammates to respect," Stallings said. "If he says something, which he doesn't often, he backs up what he says by how he plays and how he practices. It's been very pleasing to see."
Also pleasing to Commodore fans was Beal's performance during the five-game, ten-day team excursion to Australia in August, where Beal averaged just over 20 points a game with an increased confidence in his shot and overall ability.
"The hard work is what has done it for his confidence," Stallings said. "The results are going to come from the hard work. He's put the work in, and his shooting has gotten better. He has really improved as a shooter since he's been here, (and) his driving to the basket, creating contact, getting to the foul line are all things he has continued to do very well."
Thus, though Beal can often be seen working alone, he does so with a team-first mentality.
"I've just been working hard on my game, and hopefully this year that will pay off and show up for me," Beal said. "Our team's looking good, but we still have to play.
"I just want to lead this team night in and night out to a victory."