LONZO, LaMelo and LiAngelo aren’t common names you hear on the regular. Then again the three Ball brothers aren’t exactly ‘common’ or ‘regular’. Lonzo Ball (19) currently plays for UCLA and is one of the top basketball prospects expected to enter the upcoming NBA draft. LiAngelo (18) the middle sibling, is committed to play for UCLA in 2017-18 and LaMelo (15) is also committed to the program, widely expected to follow in his brother footsteps. Driven and guided by their father LaVar Ball and mother Tina, both former college basketballers, the siblings have grown up playing together on teams coached by their dad. Over the past 12 months, however, they have started to build quite the reputation and seem poised to change the way basketball is played.
The one man who isn’t shocked by their rise to fame is their 48-year-old personal trainer and motivational guru. LaVar Ball has helped to nurture the boys and drive them to success for as long as he can remember. He doesn’t push or force his boys into these decisions. They want to be great and turn to him for guidance and motivation. LaVar has been quoted saying to his boys “Someone has to be better than Michael Jordan. Why not you?”. If his son’s exploits over the past few months are any sign of foreshadowing, the sky is the limit for the talented trio.
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THE nation’s second-best assist man in college basketball is paving the path for his younger brothers to follow. Current UCLA assistant coach watched four Lonzo Ball possessions before offering him a scholarship at the time with Oregon State. Luckily for Grace, he was hired to be an assistant for Steve Alford and they were able to recruit Ball. Lonzo is leading a highly ranked UCLA squad to what will probably be a high seed come tournament time, and during the whole process has emerged as a potential #1 pick in the next NBA Draft. When matched up against many people’s consensus choice for the 1st pick, Markelle Fultz last week, Ball went to work. UCLA easily won the game 107-66, but what stood out was how zeroed in Lonzo was for all 31 minutes he was on the court. He got the jump on Fultz early, scoring and setting up teammates at will, effectively ending the game at half-time. He has had numerous possessions and games this season where he has looked bored at the ease of college and is garnering national player of the year consideration.
WHILE all this is going on in Westwood, Los Angeles, his two brothers continue to build their own reputations at Chino Hill High School. LaMelo and LiAngelo have wowed basketball fans that travel from far and wide to watch the brothers play. The 6’6 LiAngelo continues to lead the ‘Huskies’ a season after winning the state championship alongside his brothers. With a new coach and his older brother at college, LiAngelo picked up the slack this year, averaging 38 points and topping 50 with regularity. In a game earlier this season, he dropped an incredible 72 points, including 13 threes. That output eclipsed any scoring night his older brother had, with the scorching performance coming during their 60 game winning streak.
ALL good things must come to an end though, and recently that win streak was halted by Oak Hill Academy in a 96-91 loss, despite 23 points from LiAngelo and 36 from LaMelo. The youngest sibling LaMelo said after the game “We have to bounce back and not lose anymore”. His dad said “My boys get mad when they lose” and with LiAngelo sitting out of the next game with an ankle injury, LaMelo seized his opportunity. The high school sophomore scored an unbelievable 92 points in their 146-123 win over Los Osos. His scoring outburst was the second best performance in Californian high school basketball history, and after the game, LaMelo dedicated the game to a classmate who was diagnosed with a rare heart condition.
THESE scoring outbursts by the UCLA bound high schoolers have drawn plenty of criticism and negative light. Coaches, star athletes and current/former pros are claiming the ‘cherry picking’ done by the brothers is a bad look for the game. Watching the tape from both highlight games there is definitely evidence of both brothers benefiting from long outlet passes and them rarely crossing half court on defense. But there is no denying the elite offensive talents that they have. Lonzo averaged a triple-double his senior year at high school, LiAngelo scored 13 threes in November making it look easy and LaMelo (at the age of 15) just scored 92 freaking points. These three are more than talented, they have been born with something special. Will they all become NBA superstars? Who knows, they are still kids and there are too many factors in play to even hazard a guess. And while it’s way too early to tell if they will grow into stars, one thing is certain. There is nothing ‘common’ or ‘regular’ about the Ball brothers.
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