Running down the list of South Carolina women’s basketball’s 2019-2020 roster, something about freshman Brea Beal stands out.
She’s a guard, and she’s 6 feet tall.
Beal is taller than any other backcourt player the Gamecocks have but shorter than all the forwards. And in a sport where positional versatility has become increasingly popular, she could play a unique role for Dawn Staley.
USC fans got a glimpse of that in all-star showcases like the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic -- Beal was all over the floor, collecting rebounds, swatting shots and scoring in bursts. Her high school stats are those of a player who does everything well: 24.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.6 blocks and 2.6 steals per game as a senior.
“I definitely love being able to do whatever you ask of me. I love being versatile. I don’t like being held to one thing, one thing only,” Beal said. “So that’s definitely what I love the most.”
Before the 2018-2019 season, Staley talked about the possibility of playing more positionless basketball. Beal’s blend of size and speed on the perimeter makes her a natural fit for such a style.
Analyst Dan Olson, who runs ESPN’s recruiting rankings, raved about Beal’s flexibility in his write-up: “Physical post up game exploits mismatches, draws contact and delivers with regularity, body control to rim; confident on jumper with range to the arc; inside or outside, undeniable results.”
Beal thinks of herself mostly as a guard with the ability to exploit her size advantage when needed.
“Being able to be around the perimeter, but with my size I’m able to go to that position if I need to, if somebody smaller than me (is guarding me), that’s what I love the most,” Beal said.
Last season, Staley said on several occasions that she wanted her guards to be better at helping out with rebounds, and speaking on WACH FOX this offseason, Staley singled out Beal’s rebounding ability as one of her greatest attributes, as well as her desire to win and willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish that.
“(Staley) talks to me a lot about those types of things,” Beal said of her rebounding. “Like I said, you don’t just hold yourself to one expectation. If you’re able to do that, go ahead and do that, because you’re not just helping yourself, you’re helping the whole entire team.”
The early comparison Staley herself offered on Beal is Allisha Gray, who is also a 6-foot-tall guard with positional flexibility. That might take time though, something Beal knows very well.
“I think definitely coming in as a freshman, I can be the one who cheers everybody on,” Beal said. “You don’t just expect to come out and start like you did in your high school career. So definitely come in and help other people when you see them down, just little things that help a lot.”
Still, when she’s called upon on the floor, Beal thinks she can impress fans with a Swiss Army Knife-like array of skills.
“With me, you never know what you’ll see. A lot of things, I’ll be amazed myself,” Beal said when asked to scout her own game. “But just a very strong player, and whatever you ask of me I’ll give.”