Bradley Beal has never been shy about his desire to leave the game of basketball better than how he found it. With Bradley Beal Elite, his AAU program, the Washington Wizards star is doing just that.
Founded as St. Louis Eagles Basketball Club in 1988, the program — which Brad himself came up in as a youth player under original founder Ron Golden and legendary coach Rich Gray — became Bradley Beal Elite when he took over the boys high school teams in 2017 and later the middle school and girls teams as well.
“Playing for the St. Louis Eagles under Rich Gray was the best decision my parents and I ever made in my life. Coach Gray was the first person to tell me I could be the next Kobe…you could be the next pro kid coming out of St. Louis. Outside of my parents I’d never heard that. This is a guy who is putting plenty of kids in the pros. Plenty of kids in college and helped develop them. I started believing, maybe I can,” Brad recalls. “My entire summer, my schedule is based around my AAU schedule….because I love those kids so much…I embrace being able to be around them. That was a promise I made to Coach Gray in 2017. When I decided to take over the team, he was like “This is yours. You can’t just put your name on it.” So to be able to be where I am, have my feet where I am, that legacy portion, that’s what I care about the most.
Now in its seventh year under Brad’s name, and 36th season overall, BBE is responsible for helping dozens of St. Louis area boys and girls basketball players reach their goals of playing basketball at the collegiate level. Bradley Beal Elite has also been a launching point for several young men to reach the ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. Among them are Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, one of the league’s brightest young stars, and projected 2023 NBA Draft Lottery pick Brandon Miller.
In a recent sit down with NBC Sports Washington, Brad admitted that while he always envisioned giving back to the game, he never thought he’d be doing it in the way he is with BBE.
“I would’ve never thought of anything like this being able to happen. This is probably my happiest accomplishment,” he said. “I didn’t think of myself to be a role model type player for kids. I’m just trying to be the best version of Brad Beal I can possibly be. To hear that [I’m their role model] from my kids, kids I’ve coached…Jayson always says ‘Brad’s my favorite player,’ that trips me out.”
Currently, BBE has a handful of players in the NBA, including Brad, Tatum, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, Golden State Warriors guard Moses Moody, Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, and Brad’s teammate in Washington Jordan Goodwin. Those players are thankful for the memories and opportunities Brad and the BBE program have given them.
Beal's impact on basketball culture in St. Louis is unmatched. Don't believe it?
Just listen to @jaytatum0 and Jordan Goodwin
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) April 5, 2023
A new generation of BBE stars is getting ready to splash into the league as well, led by E.J. Lidell, who was drafted in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, before a preseason injury knocked him out for the season. The upcoming draft might see a pair of BBE alums go in the first round, with Miller, the Freshman of the Year and Wooden All-American at Alabama, and Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. both declaring for the draft after their successful.
Others who could soon follow include college standouts Caleb Love and Yuri Collins and high schoolers Scotty Middleton and Layden Blocker, who finished up with BBE last summer and are off to Ohio State and Arkansas respectively this fall.
“[Brad] deserves everything that is coming to him and what he has gotten so far. Repping him and repping St. Louis everywhere we go, it’s meant a lot. It holds weight,” Love said. “Every time we stepped on the floor, regardless of win, lose or draw, we had to give it our all.”
Despite consistently graduating stars to the next levels of the game, a foundation has been laid that forecasts a bright future for the program. To that end, the groundwork has been laid for a 97,000 square foot facility in St. Louis that will house all of Bradley Beal Elite’s teams under roof. His contributions through BBE cinch that Bradley Beal will leave the game of basketball better than he found it when he entered the league a decade ago.
“It’s very humbling for me” he said. “It means the world to me, because that’s what I want my legacy to be: “What kind of impact did I leave on you? What kind of impact did I leave on my team? What kind of impact did I leave on my kids?”