Column: It’s Ball in the family at Chino Hills basketball
“The circus is coming” might be the appropriate way to introduce the Chino Hills Huskies basketball team next season considering the amount of interest the team is going to generate from fans and media.
Starting this summer, get ready for anyone and everyone with a camera to show up to watch three Ball brothers on the court at the same time. There’s also a fourth Ball, a cousin, who will be contributing. Add to that players who are 6 feet 8, 6-7 and 6-4 become eligible after sitting out last season. Chino Hills could be No. 1 in California.
“We’re in the planning stages how to go about it,” Coach Steve Baik said about dealing with the coming media and fan frenzy arriving at a gym near you.
First there’s Lonzo Ball, a 6-6 senior-to-be committed to UCLA who’s the best point guard in California and a possible one-and-done player for college. Then there’s 6-5 junior-to-be LiAngelo Ball, another UCLA commit who’s not afraid to shoot from anywhere. And arriving in the middle of June will be freshman LaMelo Ball, who one day could be the best Ball brother of all. There’s also the cousin, Andre Ball, a sophomore-to-be who showed plenty of potential as a freshman.
“I think it’s a fun thing,” Baik said. “I feel the family will get a kick out of it. The kids have grown up playing together. It won’t be anything new. They’re used to it.”
The Ball brothers finally might get to play their true positions after having to play a variety of roles last season. Becoming eligible for the Huskies are 6-8 Shane Hopkins, 6-7 Chazz Smith and 6-4 Eli Scott.
Also arriving is 6-7 freshman Onyeka Okongwu, the younger brother of former Chino Hills standout Nnamdi Okongwu, who died after a skateboard accident in 2014.
Chino Hills isn’t going to be the only team creating excitement in prep basketball. Southern California is loaded with top teams for 2015-16.
Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, the Division V state champion, will present a stiff challenge to Chino Hills. Five starters are back and 6-8 Ira Lee, sidelined last season because of a shoulder injury, will be returning this summer. Chino Hills and Sierra Canyon are entered in the Fairfax summer tournament June 22-27.
Los Angeles Cathedral has three players committed to Pac-12 Conference programs: Kobe Paras (UCLA), Lucas Siewert (Arizona State) and Milan Acquaah (Washington State).
Torrance Bishop Montgomery loses Stephen Thompson Jr., but his brother, Ethan, is capable of taking charge, and there’s more talent with junior-to-be Jordan Schakel and sophomore-to-be David Singleton.
Riverside North, 24-4 last season, returns virtually its entire team, led by talented point guard Dikymbe Martin. Encino Crespi, the Division IV state champion, is filled with top players and is expected to add Max Heidegger, a standout guard from two years ago. Mission Hills Alemany returns the Mission League most valuable player, Shacquille Dawkins, plus 6-8 Daron Henson.
Don’t forget about Santa Ana Mater Dei. Denied a fifth consecutive state championship after an overtime loss in the Open Division final, the Monarchs are plotting a return trip, led by 6-10 M.J. Cage.
City Section champion Fairfax will have All-City guard Donald Gipson, 6-7 defensive specialist Babacar Thiombane at center and three-point shooter Antoine Monroe. Corona Centennial will have 6-9 junior Jalen Hill and 6-9 senior Ike Anigbogu. L.A. Windward is filled with top players, led by guard Jalen Harris.
And just wait until all the transfers have moved around. There could be more top teams in the making.