LaVar Ball has has a knack for the unconventional, but not allowing his youngest son, LaMelo Ball, to play high school basketball for the next two years could impair LaMelo’s development as a player, experts say.
Ball, saying he was upset with comments made by Chino Hills (Calif.) High coach Dennis Latimore, earlier this week said he was pulling LaMelo out of the school and would train him and have him home-schooled for two years. Latimore on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Times that Ball had asked to put four new players on the Huskies’ varsity and after Latimore refused, Ball pulled out his son from school. This would be LaMelo’s junior year.
There have been basketball players who succeeded despite being home-schooled, but nearly all of them, such as NBA forwards Michael Beasley and Justin Jackson and WNBA guard Moriah Jefferson, played high school basketball while they were home-schooled.
LaMelo is a 16-year-old guard, so the next two high school seasons are important for his physical and basketball development. He’ll still have live games during the AAU season, but the rest of the time, it will all be practice. You can almost see Allen Iverson cringing at the thought. If Ball went to another in-state school this season, he would have to sit out a year because of CIF transfer schools — unless that school, like Prolific Prep (Napa), isn’t part of the CIF. That’s assuming he could play at Prolific Prep.
“The question is whether he can reform his style of play,” Prolific Prep coach Phillipe Doherty said. “His style of play is not conducive to college or the NBA. He doesn’t run back on defense. He stops at half court. He shoots over 40 shots a game. That would never work with us. It’s not how we play. At our level, he would be exposed. I think it comes down to ego and either wanting conflict or not wanting conflict. I don’t know what LaVar’s goals are. I’m never a believer in telling others what they should think or do based on their goals because I’m not in their shoes.”
If any high school coach could get along with LaVar Ball, it would be Steve Baik, who won a Super 25 championship at Chino Hills two seasons ago before taking a job as the coach at Fairfax (Los Angeles.). If Ball were to transfer to Fairfax, he still wouldn’t be able to play until his senior year because of CIF transfer rules.
“I don’t think it will happen (at Fairfax),” Baik said. “I haven’t talked with LaVar in a few weeks. He hasn’t talked to me about the possibility of it. It isn’t even on my radar.”
While many high school coaches acknowledge LaMelo has talent, the question is, where would he fit in?
“We played (Chino Hills) a couple of times recently,” Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) coach Steve Smith said. “We played them last year at the Mater Dei event. His dad was on the other end of the bench. I don’t think Oak Hill would be a good fit. He’s a California kid and we’re in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He’s used to playing with the green light. We’ve had really good players in the past, but it’s still not their team. We have a system and you have to fit in. He’s not a system guy. He probably could be, but he never has been.”
Still, LaMelo Ball, ranked as the No. 4 point guard in his class by 247Sports, is too good a player not to end up somewhere if he does want to play this year.
“Anything is possible,” Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) coach Paul Washington Sr. texted. “He’s a top kid, so it really depends on him. At some point, he’s going to have to play the right way.”
Gary Trent Sr. played nine seasons in the NBA and is the father of Duke freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. The younger Trent played his first three seasons at Apple Valley, Minn., before transferring first to Findlay Prep. One month later, in the August of his senior year, Trent transferred to Prolific Prep after then-Findlay Prep coach Andy Johnson left for an assistant’s job at Southern Utah.
“I think sitting out two years and not having any competitive play is not a good idea,” Gary Trent Sr. said. “After all of that training, you have to put it to use and in a competitive situation. I don’t know the details or the motives or the reason toward taking LaMelo out of the school. From an athlete’s standpoint and a coach’s standpoint, having two years of not having competitive play, I don’t know how that helps you grow.”