CHICAGO – The first thing you should know about Lonzo Ball is that he’s not interested in proving you wrong.
Nope, not even a little bit.
And, well, he shouldn’t be.
Not after that season.
“I’m at the McDonald’s All American Game to have fun,” Ball said. “I’m not worried about what anyone thinks I need to do or who I need to go against; it’s just about having a good time and competing.”
That’s right, Ball isn’t here for a hostile takeover of the Windy City; the way he sees it if you’re a naysayer after a season where he won the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year, Morgan Wootten Player of the Year and averaged 23.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists for Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) who finished 35-0 and No. 1 overall in the USA Today Super 25, then, well, “you might just be a hater.”
“I mean I did all the proving during the season,” said Ball, a UCLA signee who will suit up for the West at the McDonald’s All American Game tonight at 9 p.m. EST. “I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore. The next time I’ll feel like I’ll have something to prove will be in college.”
It certainly makes sense that the No. 1 point guard and No. 5 overall player in the ESPN 100 would be secure enough in his standing not to feel the need to silence critics, but Ball only became top dog in January.
Before then he was ranked No. 11 overall and No. 3 among point guards in the class; behind Cypress Lake’s (Katy, Texas) De’Aaron Fox, a Kentucky signee who is running with the East, and Dennis Smith Jr., who tore his ACL before the season and enrolled early at North Carolina State. Smith held down the No. 1 spot at the point.
Last summer, Ball only played in local events with his travel team, opting not to run in any of the three major shoe circuit’s – adidas, Nike or Under Armour – summer leagues, per his father’s orders.
“The object is to get to college and I was already committed to UCLA so we didn’t feel like I needed to be on any circuits,” Ball said. “I got better working out on my own.”
The move didn’t come without backlash; the buzz on Ball was that he was ducking competition, a label he was intent on shedding immediately.
“I would get mad sometimes when I’d hear things and ask my dad to let me play in events so I could shut people up,” Ball said. “But he would tell me not to worry about it and just wanted me to keep working hard. My dad isn’t the kind of guy you go back and forth with. The way I was brought up, what my father says goes. I trust him; he’s always led me in the right direction.”
Ball’s dominant dream season gave new meaning to the phrase “father knows best.”
“As far as I’m concerned, he didn’t have to prove anything to me it was just the simple fact that I didn’t see him,” ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin said. “Once I saw him this season I was on board. We rewarded him by moving him up based on his performance against great competition. I’m sold. He’s the best passer in high school basketball and it’s not close. I’ve become a Lonzo Ball fan watching him play. How can you not?”
High Point Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) forward Edrice Adebayo, a Kentucky signee who will run with the East, played with Smith on Team Loaded (N.C.) last summer and played against Ball twice this high school season; he said there are a lot of similarities with their games.
“In the halfcourt they play exactly alike,” said Adebayo. “But in the full court, Lonzo has that ‘Ball pass’ or whatever you want to call it. That thing is tough!”
Still, Tom Brady-like, full-court baseball passes aside, Ball couldn’t care less whether people believe the proverbial hype or reserve the right to hang on to their misinformed reservations; have at it.
“I don’t pay attention to any of it,” Ball said with a laugh. “People don’t understand when you go 35-0 your focus has to be at an all-time high. All the hard work is over, and I’m just enjoying everything about this experience.”
He’s certainly earned that right.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY