By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
The Perth Wildcats know exactly what they get from Jermaine ‘Dolla’ Beal on the court, but away from the bright lights his teammates aren’t quite so sure.
“Um, actually I don’t know. He’s very quiet and he keeps to himself off the court,” centre Matt Knight said.
Veteran Shawn Redhage said Beal was “a pretty quiet guy” but didn’t know too much else, while captain Damian Martin was prepared to hazard a guess.
“If you're ever looking for Dolla off the court, go and find somewhere where there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet and he doesn’t have to pay for it,” he laughed.
“He eats more than anyone I've ever met and if it’s free he’s not leaving in a rush.”
But there is one place every Wildcat knows they’ll be able to find the mild-mannered American.
“He’s one of the hardest workers, most people wouldn’t realise,” Knight said.
“After practice he’ll always stay back and shoot for 30 to 45 minutes with the assistant coaches, working on his three-point shot and getting to the basket.
“He’s one of the last ones to leave the gym every day.”
Martin said the import’s business-like approach had impressed even the well-drilled Wildcats unit.
“You can tell he’s played professionally for a few seasons by the way he conducts himself,” Martin said.
“He shows up, trains hard every day and off the court he makes sure he’s preparing himself for the game that weekend.”
For Beal, doing the extra work is something that dates back to long before his pro days.
“Growing up I used to just bounce the ball all around my neighbourhood. I used to wake up all my neighbours, we always had neighbours complaining,” he laughed.
“It’s something you have to do. I like putting in extra work, knowing I've given my all. If I have a bad game I want it to be because I over-did it and not because I under-did it.”
Redhage described Beal as “a big-time player”, while Martin said “you can’t go past Dolla” when a big shot is needed, the Dallas native picking up that nickname in junior high school because “I guess I was money”.
“I had a couple of my neighbours who I grew up with, they were bigger than me. We would play one-on-one, first to 11, win by two, make it-take it,” he said.
“You practise every day to make those kinds of shots in the clutch moments. Those extra shots you're putting up, you hope the one in the fourth quarter when you shoot it, all that hard work pays off for that one shot.”
Beal’s big-moment scoring ability is no secret on Australian shores, but what about his mysterious life off the court?
“I just like to relax,” he said, in a fittingly stress-free tone.
“I love to watch movies, my hobbies are movies and video games, and beside that I just like to relax and lay low.
“I love going to the beach when it’s not too hot, and the aquarium here is pretty cool, and riding around the city is pretty cool too.”
Perth offers the perfect lifestyle for the easy-going 26-year-old, who faced a challenging time in his first pro gig in freezing Poland, where the coach didn’t speak English.
“Luckily, I had a couple of teammates who were translating for me, but I don’t know if they were translating right,” Beal laughed.
Stops in the NBA D-League and Belgium followed before the former Vanderbilt star found a place in Brazil that suited his soul.
“I liked the life in Brazil, it was cool,” he said.
“I was staying in a nice city, Belo Horizonte … we didn’t have a beach but we had everything else.”
Now that lifestyle puzzle is complete and with the thrill of 11,000 fans at Perth Arena making all the extra hours of training worthwhile, Beal is hungry to come back for more next season.
But true to form, that’s the last thing on his mind.
“Oh yeah man, I am, but I ain't trying to think about that right now,” he said.
“I'm thinking about practice tomorrow and trying to get better.”
*Watch Jermaine Beal and the Wildcats take on the Adelaide 36ers at 9.30pm on ONE.