LOS ANGELES — About 100 people waited outside King Drew Magnet High School an hour before tipoff for a glimpse at the local kid who’s played everywhere but home for the last two years.
One man turned to the other in line and said, “It’s never like this. Is this really all for Melo?”
Of course it was. It’s a part of the Big Baller Brand production.
It starts with the son flashing on the court. These days it’s LaMelo, the 17-year old who spent a year in Lithuania and another at SPIRE Academy in Ohio. The youngest of the Ball brothers did his part on Saturday night scoring 25 points at the Drew League, including three-point shots, acrobatic layups and high-flying dunks.
LaVar, the father of the Ball clan, played his role too. He hung around the court after the game, took photos, signed autographs and provided his usual “wait and see” type projection.
“He’ll be the number one pick,” LaVar told Yahoo Sports on Saturday.
Saturday was Ball’s first game since finishing his high school season, in which he averaged 21.8 points and 8.9 assists per game. It followed a disappointing year in Lithuania, where LaMelo appeared in just eight games. Since LaMelo isn’t eligible for the NBA draft until 2020 and likely forfeited his NCAA eligibility, LaVar reaffirmed that his son’s season before the NBA will be spent overseas.
“It’s going to be in Australia or China, one of ‘em,” LaVar told Yahoo Sports.
The Ball family, including Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo and middle brother LiAngelo, watched courtside as LaMelo sank his first shot attempt playing for Team No Shnacks, a three-pointer from the corner. He’d hit several more while also flinging passes with a style reminiscent of his eldest brother.
LaMelo played alongside former Chino Hills teammate and current USC five-star commit Onyeka Okongwu. In the second half, Okongwu raised his eyebrows at LaMelo before an inbound play. The 6-foot-8 forward took off down the lane and snagged the inbound before finishing with a dunk.
“I mean like whenever we’re on the court on together we always click right away,” Okongwu said. “That’s just something me and him have. We have that eye contact. We know what’s going to happen.”
In the third quarter, LaMelo opened up the game in the eventual 90-71 No Shnacks win. It started with the crowd’s roars as he crossed half court with no one in front of him. He took off from the ground, flushed his dunk and swung down off the rim.
The next possession, though, he took over. Crossing the ball between his legs and from hand to hand, he shimmied left, then right, and back to his left. Still, with little separation, he sank the three-pointer and many in the crowd rose to their feet.
“What people don’t realize about LaMelo’s game is that he’s a true point guard that can run a system and he can do it all,” said No Shnacks head coach Gary Clark. “You see the YouTubes of him scoring all these points and people say, ‘Oh well he’s not going to do that in the next level.’ Well, yes, he is.”
LaMelo skirted the crowd after the game. He shook hands with some family and friends and headed for the locker room and didn’t come back out.
So LaVar did as LaVar does and explained his son’s game for him.
“Melo look good every night,” LaVar said. “The boy plays the game of basketball. This is what he do. He love to do it. He put on a show. And this is what he does, wins.”
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