LONG BEACH, Calif. — Something about Southern California brings out the best in consensus five-star shooting guard Mustapha Heron.
Eleven months ago, the 6-foot-4 Auburn-bound lefty took home co-MVP honors at the prestigious Pangos All-American Camp, which is headquartered in the SoCal area.
Saturday night, Heron imposed his will in the Ballislife All-American Game, scoring 31 points to to help Team Elite defeat Team Future, 152-134, in the ultimate all-star game atmosphere at Long Beach City College.
When asked what it is about the area that makes him play so well, Heron pinpointed something non-basketball related.
“The weather,” he said with a laugh.
Heron, from Sacred Heart High in Connecticut, added that he brings the same mindset to any game he plays in no matter what the setting is.
“Like any other game, I just try and go out, play hard and play my game and hopefully come out with a win,” Heron said. “The MVP is great, too.”
The MVP of the Team Future was triple-double machine Lonzo Ball.
The American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year, Ball finished just shy of that plateau he’s reached so often over the course of his career, scoring 17 points, pulling down eight rebound, while recording a Ballislife All-American Game record 15 assists.
Saturday marked the first time since late July that the 6-foot-5, UCLA-bound point guard had lost a game he played.
Ball led Chino Hills (Calif.) to a 35-0 record this past season, capped by a CIF State Open Division championship with the Huskies finishing as the top-ranked team in the Super 25. He also was on the winning West team at the McDonald’s All American Game in Chicago.
“It’s an honor,” Ball said of his MVP performance. “Only a couple of people get that every year and it was fun to get up and down with these guys. There was a lot of talent and I loved playing out there today.”
Ball’s description of the game as being an “up-and-down” affair qualifies as a bit of an understatement.
The teams combined for 286 points, which is the most in the game’s six-year history.
There was much more interest in one-on-one matchups than offensive efficiency, so defense was not at a premium and some players were more interested in assisting themselves off the backboard instead of finding the open man.
“It was definitely all in good fun,” Heron said. “We’re not always able to get together and have fun during the year, so to have a moment like this before we all go to college is pretty fun.”
Heron wasn’t the only player to break the 30-point threshold for Team Elite.
Six-foot-8 power forward Mitch Lightfoot, who is signed with Kansas, finished with a game-high 32 points with 27 of those coming in the second half.
Michigan State-bound small forward Miles Bridges finished with 25 points for Team Future, while Arizona-signee Rawle Alkins added 20 points.
Duwan Huell (15), T.J. Leaf (14), Sam Cunliffe (12), Troy Baxter (12) and Yoeli Childs (10) rounded out the double-figure scorers for Team Future.
For Team Elite, Andrew Jones (21), Vance Jackson (16), Ike Anigbogu (15), J.J. Caldwell (12) and James Banks (10) each scored in double-figures. Caldwell added eight assists, while Jones had seven assists.