It appears LiAngelo Ball will not return to the UCLA men’s basketball team. LaVar Ball, LiAngelo’s father, has pulled his son out of the school.
According to TMZ Sports, someone familiar with Ball’s thinking on the matter offered this assessment, “There’s no need to break down a kid’s spirit for making a mistake.”
“We are exploring other options with [LiAngelo],” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “He’s out of there.”
It appears the main one of those options is to prepare the player for June’s NBA draft. While at least one mid-major college basketball program had invited LiAngelo to transfer to it, Ball told ESPN that they were not interested in such a move.
LaVar Ball: "He's not transferring to another school," he told ESPN. "The plan is now to get Gelo ready for the NBA Draft." The plan was always for LiAngelo to spend one season at UCLA and then leave, regardless of whether he was projected to be drafted.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) December 4, 2017
“I’m going to make him way better for the draft that UCLA ever could have,” Ball told ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from UCLA,” UCLA Coach Steve Alford told ESPN’s Arash Markazi. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”
Ball has already pulled the youngest of his three sons, LaMelo, out of high school, where he was set to be a junior. The 16-year-old is a highly regarded prospect who was set to follow his brothers to UCLA, but that plan could be in jeopardy, given the family disenchantment with the school’s handling of the fallout from the China episode.
In addition, UCLA officials may be concerned about LaMelo’s eligibility to eventually play there, as he could be receiving what the NCAA deems to be impermissible benefits while getting home-schooled as a member of the Big Baller Brand clan. “One official at UCLA said this likely means the end of what was supposed to be a long, fruitful run with the Ball brothers,” Markazi reported.
While Ball’s oldest son, Lonzo, is a prized rookie with the Lakers who was selected No. 2 overall in June’s NBA draft, the outspoken patriarch is fine with the possibility of his two younger sons playing in lesser leagues overseas, at least until they develop NBA-caliber skills. That way, Markazi reported, they would be “growing the [family’s] brand in other parts of the world instead of playing in college.”
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported Monday that a representative for LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball had already “started initial contact” with teams in Europe about both players. If either is signed, he would lose his NCAA eligibility.
If the NBA draft is the family’s focus, LiAngelo Ball might have an uphill battle. The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps reported last month that, unlike Lonzo, LiAngelo isn’t viewed by scouts as a legitimate NBA prospect.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that Ball has “no chance” of being selected in next year’s NBA draft, adding that was the case even before the shoplifting incident. Wojnarowski quoted an unnamed NBA executive as saying, “He’s not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists.”
Read more from The Post: