It’s not that he’s dwelling or whining; he’s certainly not up nights tossing and turning in a cold sweat, but if you ask Chino Hills (Calif.) wing LiAngelo Ball how he feels about being left out of this year’s McDonald’s All American Game, Ball has a ready-made, matter-of-fact response.
“I think it’s crazy,” Ball said. “I feel like I should’ve been in the game. The first thing I thought when I saw the roster on Twitter was I’m gonna prove them wrong.”
Operation “show and prove” will certainly be initiated Saturday night when the No. 5 Huskies square off with No. 8 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) at the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Oak Hill forward Billy Preston was one of the 24 players picked to play in the McDonald’s All American Game, which tips March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.
“I don’t worry about not getting picked or anything like that,” said Ball, a UCLA signee. “I know what I’ve done and I just use it all to motivate me.”
Don’t mistake Ball as the typical “disgruntled player who’s crying over spilled milk because he didn’t make it”; his perspective is rooted in pretty convincing facts.
Ball averaged 29 points per game for the Huskies last season during their perfect 35-0 run when Chino Hills won the USA Today Super 25 national title.
This season he’s upped that to 38 points per game.
Ball’s father LaVar’s perspective is a simple as it is powerful.
“He’s the best player on the best team,” LaVar said. “How is he not in the game? But we don’t care about that game anyway. Not having LiAngelo in the game makes it lose credibility. We’re not even gonna watch. We’re just gonna keep working.”
Since the McDonald’s All American announcement, Ball has put up two 50-point games and a 60-point game.
“I always have the same mindset and that’s to dominate everyone,” Ball said. “But, yeah, not making the game has definitely made me want to dominate even more.”
Ball’s theory on why he was left out of the game is that he opted to play in local tournaments and work on his individual game “instead of playing on any of the summer circuits” where most of the McDonald’s All American voters form lasting impressions.
The fact that Ball isn’t even ranked in the ESPN 100 and is considered a three-star prospect only strengthens his perspective.
“But I wouldn’t change a thing,” Ball said. “What I did in the summer has gotten my game to where it’s at right now, just working on specific parts of my game and still playing against competition. I would do it all over again.”
Last year Ball’s brother, Lonzo, who took the same route during the summer, was named to the McDonald’s All American Game and was ranked No. 4 overall in the ESPN 100.
Now Lonzo is dominating at UCLA and is widely regarded as a lock for the top five in this year’s NBA Draft.
“It worked out for him, but for whatever reason not me,” LiAngelo said. “He just told me not to worry about it and to keep on going hard, which is what I’ve been doing. He said the only thing that matters is the next level and I know I’m getting myself ready for that.”
Ball, who was also not chosen for the Jordan Brand Classic, said the staff at UCLA cosigned his brother’s message, but even they were surprised at what they felt was a glaring oversight.
“They couldn’t believe I wasn’t in the game,” Ball said. “They just told me to keep doing what I’m doing. They know what I’m capable of and that none of this stuff will matter anyway when I get there.”
Precisely LaVar’s point, though his bottom line remains clear.
“All those people they picked haven’t been scoring 50 and 60 like my boy,” he said. “It’s just gonna make them look bad. We’re not even worried about McDonald’s All American, it’s just a title. We’re focused on the biggest title anyway; being a pro.”
With the McDonald’s All-America Game naming 24 players every year, it’s actually surprising when there’s a breakout player in the NBA who wasn’t a McDonald’s player. The American Family Insurance ALL-USA team names 15 players (and in the early years, only five first-teamers). Here are three standouts, including two NBA All-Stars and a likely future All-Star who made ALL-USA but not the McDonald’s game.
Name/High School/ALL-USA Selection/In the NBA
– Kawhi Leonard/King, Riverside, Calif./2009 (third-team ALL-USA)/2015-2017 All-Star, MVP of 2014 NBA Finals
– John Wall/Word of God Christian Academy, Raleigh, N.C./2009 first-team ALL-USA/2014-2017 All-Star
– Joel Embiid/The Rock, Gainesville, Fla./2013 third-team ALL-USA
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY