FORT MYERS, Fla. — Chino Hills, Calif., played seven players in their first game in the City of Palms Classic and four of them were named Ball. That included Lonzo Ball, his brothers LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball and their cousin, Andre Ball.
The puns come easily. A Ball team. A whole new Ball game. BasketBall. Chino Hills, 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in the Super 25 is no joke, however. Friday night, the Huskies edged Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 91-90, led by junior small forward LiAngelo, who had 28 points and seven rebounds; senior point guard Lonzo, who had 22 points, five rebounds and five blocks; and freshman guard LaMelo, who had 12 points. Andre, a sophomore forward, had two points, two rebounds and two assists.
Chino Hills plays an up-tempo style, might be best described as shoot-first, ask-questions-about-defense later. It’s the same style the Balls have employed since their father, LaVar, began coaching them in youth basketball.
“The only way we don’t get to 100 (points) is if one of my sons doesn’t bring what he’s supposed to,” LaVar Ball said. “LaMelo only had 12 points and that’s an off game for him. The good thing about that is he’ll only have one off game, so the rest of the season, he’s good.”
LiAngelo said the Huskies’ up-tempo style suits the Ball brothers. Chino Hills started the season by hitting 100 points in three of five games.
“We’ve always played fast our whole life, so we already know what we’re doing,” LiAngelo said. “I know I’m going to play the whole game all the time, so I just have to suck it up and do what I do. We just try to shoot as much as we can. Get more shots than the other team — that’s the goal.”
Lonzo, a member of the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Preseason Team, has signed with UCLA and LiAngelo and LaMelo have committed to the Bruins, but there’s no guarantee they will all play for UCLA. In the meantime, LaVar enjoys watching them play for the same high school.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this, for everyone to see my boys,” LaVar said. “I’ve been watching them play for a long time. This is the first and last time that they do it on a high school level. We’re not going to lose a game. They’ve been playing this style since they were this big.”
That’s not to say Chino Hills never plays defense. Friday’s win was sealed with two late blocks by Lonzo on Thomas Jefferson’s last possession.
“When they need to play defense, they play defense,” Chino Hills coach Steve Baik said. “Defensively, we didn’t get back. We let them do what they were good at, which is getting back to the basket. Hopefully, we got it all out of the way for Monday night. We knew they wanted to run and a lot of times the teams that want to run with us, they play into our hands.”
Baik said the team has set plays, but a lot of times the offense just happens.
“They’ve played with each other, so they do things off of instinct,” Baik said. “When we have players like ‘Zo, you just have to let him play. He’ll make the right decision, time and time again.”
There are other key players for Chino Hills not named Ball. On Friday, Cameron Shelton had 11 rebounds in 11 minutes and Elizjah Scott had 12 rebounds and 11 points.
“A lot of times, these other guys get overshadowed a bit, but I want to give credit where credit is due,” Baik said.
LaMelo said he expects a better effort when the team plays in a quarterfinal on Monday night.
“We could have played a lot better,” he said. “I’m guessing that was just first (tournament) game stuff.”