When it comes to national accolades, Brea Beal can sometimes be the forgotten woman, but to her coaches and teammates, the senior guard is one of South Carolina’s most valuable players as a top shutdown defender.
“I’ve accepted that role, but my role is greater than that,” Beal said. “It’s about being held accountable and to lead.
“My mentality is to expect anything, and when you’re playing a top player, expect the ball to be in their hands and the calls might go their way. Once you expect that, you play free.”
Beal has started 100 of 101 games she has played in heading into her final season with the Gamecocks. Averaging 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over her previous three seasons, her numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, but she still has a knack for the big play, whether it’s a big rebound, shot, or drive to the basket.
“That comes from the team having trust in you,” Beal said. “That allows me to have confidence and know I can do those things.”
“I think mental toughness is important.”
That being said, it’s when you look at the numbers of the opponent she is guarding that you see her greatness. She normally draws the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best player, even if that matches her up against a forward. Her 6’1” frame allows her to play nearly anywhere on the floor where she can deny touches or shots while making life miserable for her opponent.
“With defense, it can be a pride thing,” Beal said. “When you go up against someone who is supposed to go in the top ten in the draft next year, and you see the outcome of the game, it makes you feel good. It’s a pride thing for me, but just being able to shut someone down and get the ball back to my team, it’s a team thing as well.
“If I do my job, that takes away sometimes fifty percent of the way the other team scores. As seniors now, I think a lot of us look at stats of who we guarded and say, ‘she only got this,’ and in the moment you realize that we’re not really talking about ourselves. We’re talking about the effects we’re making on defense.”
There is a reason you hear so often that “defense wins championships.” To be a great defender, one has to have excellent physical ability, but Beal said there’s another important part to it.
“I think mental toughness is important,” Beal said. “You go into a big game, and you have to play against a top scorer. You just have to have mental strength to control what you can control and remember that it’s just another game and just another player.”
As she prepares for her final season with the Gamecocks, Beal’s goals are simple.
“I just want to be consistent and be a leader,” Beal said. “I want to lead our team to another championship.”