Freeport senior Ben Beale born to play basketball

Monday, December 18, 2017 | 11:09 PM

A Little Tikes toybox stuffed with old Freeport basketball jerseys and warmups sat in Ben Beale's house during his childhood, and he took full advantage of the chance to dress up.

“He would come out of the ‘locker room,' out of his bedroom, and come sprinting out of there with his pinney on and his reversible on,” said Mike Beale, Ben's father and also Freeport's coach. “We always had a small Little Tikes hoop on one of the bedroom doors where they would go through warmups, him and (older brother) Josh, and play one-on-one in the hallway all the time even when he wasn't at the gym.

“He was born and raised blue and gold, no doubt about that.”

Simply put, basketball runs in Ben Beale's blood. The son of Mike Beale — in the seventh season of his second stint as Freeport's coach after a long tenure as an assistant — and younger brother of Josh Beale, who scored nearly 1,200 points in his Freeport career before moving on to play baseball at IUP, is forging his own legacy as a Yellowjacket.

A senior guard who excels shooting from outside, Ben Beale leads Freeport (2-2, 0-1 Section 1-4A) in scoring for the second consecutive season.

“People like to draw comparisons between me and my brother, but I don't think we're alike in the aspect of our game,” Beale said. “He's more of a big man, and I'm more of a guard. He made points in the paint, and I was behind the arc. I'm trying to make my own perspective on my own game, and I don't want to be in his footsteps.”

Beale grew up around basketball, in the gym from the time he was 3 years old.

“As soon as he was able to walk, he was with me wherever we went,” Mike Beale said. “Scouting trips, I would have a sippie cup in my hand or I would have the diaper bag with me. It became, as we grew up, part of our life, part of my fatherhood and coach. I wouldn't change it for the world.”

A former Freeport ball boy, Ben remembers holding the trophy and getting lifted onto the players' shoulders after a tipoff tournament championship.

He had close to a re-enactment of that moment last season, when Freeport's home crowd lifted him up after he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knock off section champion Indiana.

“That was such a surreal moment,” Beale said. “I hardly remember any of it. We have Hudl, and I watch the shot, but then after that I see everyone swarm the court. I don't really remember it. Everything was so fast, and I don't remember anything. It's one of the best moments of my life, probably.”

Beale is a fearless shooter, someone who spent countless hours in the gym honing his shot as he grew. He'd take 500 shots a day, trying to connect at a 60-percent clip.

And then there were the one-on-one games against Josh, two years older. They played on a regulation-sized hoop in the Beale basement — though it stood just 6 feet off the ground — and eventually graduated to the driveway.

The games could get physical — one time they feared Josh broke his arm during play. Despite the age and size difference, Ben Beale still would go at his brother, preferring one-on-one to HORSE.

Now Ben is one of Freeport's top rebounders, perhaps a credit to those games.

“If someone would lose, we'd say, ‘OK, we're playing again,' ” Ben said. “I bet now if I played him I would win because he hasn't picked up a ball in forever because he's playing baseball. But back in high school, he'd bully me in the paint.”

Although the shooting and rebounding abilities came from practice, Beale also developed a firm knowledge of the game from being around it. Mike Beale praised his son's basketball IQ, and Ben said he also learned much about leadership from his older brother.

After coming into last season relatively untested, Beale developed into Freeport's top scorer.

“As the season progressed, I didn't see myself as the main scorer, but we just tried to make off what each other created for ourselves,” Beale said. “I like to think we've created a certain culture here where we trust each other and we can feed off each other and make open shots.”

Freeport hopes to build off that this season. The Yellowjackets returned three starters from last season's second-place team and are aiming for a section title.

“Our ability is to the sky,” Beale said. “We have so much potential. We're super deep. I think we can go far in the playoffs. We can make a lot of noise. I think we have a lot of younger guys who can step in there, and there's no level where we drop down and there's no separation in energy level.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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