For a 13-year-old incoming freshman making his varsity basketball debut, LaMelo Ball of Chino Hills received more than a passing grade on Tuesday.
Scoring 27 points, including five threes, the 5-foot-10 Ball lived up to the hype that he has plenty of swag and talent, like his older brothers, Lonzo and LiAngelo, both UCLA commits. Chino Hills defeated Muir, 98-51, in a Maranatha tournament game that took on added intrigue because it was the first time the three brothers played together for a high school team.
Coach Steve Baik wasted no time in seeing what might happen, putting LaMelo in the starting lineup and letting him fire away. Lonzo finished with 18 points and LiAngelo 15. There were dunks and lob passes from the older brothers. There even was a Ball to Ball to Ball pass.
The Ball brothers’ father, LaVar, was excited.
“It’s a fun day,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this.”
It was his decision not to hold back LaMelo a grade so he could play with Lonzo, a senior, and LiAngelo, a junior. LaMelo doesn’t turn 14 until August.
Lonzo’s advice to LaMelo was “Play as you usually do.”
And LiAngelo’s advice was “Be physical.”
The brothers have trained together, and their chemistry is clear.
LaMelo didn’t hesitate when taking shots or making extra passes. The fact that he hasn’t begun his growth spurt yet and is expected to one day catch up to the 6-6 Lonzo and the 6-5 LiAngelo offers a glimpse into the future.
Chino Hills has the makings to be one of the best teams in the state. The Huskies have added size and depth with 6-8 Shane Hopkins, 6-4 Elijah Scott and 6-7 Chazz Smith. A Ball cousin, Andre, is also on the team.
And the show the Ball brothers figure to put on in every game is going to attract lots of interest.
“It’s exciting for the whole community,” Baik said. “They’ve been preparing for this moment their whole lives.”
After the Maranatha tournament this week, Chino Hills will play at the Fairfax tournament next week.
Asked what he thought of his debut, LaMelo said, “It was a fast-paced game.”
Big brother Lonzo said, “He should have had 30.”