It appears LiAngelo Ball will not return to the UCLA men’s basketball team. LaVar Ball, LiAngelo’s father, has pulled his son out of the school.
In November, UCLA teammates Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were benched and subsequently suspended indefinitely after being released on bail following an alleged shoplifting incident in China. The charges were eventually dropped, but not before the international incident made headlines when President Donald Trump tweeted that he helped free the players, which the elder Ball disputed.
The three haven’t been allowed to play, practice or travel with the Bruins since. However, Ball has maintained that his son’s lapse in judgment “ain’t that big a deal.”
According to TMZ Sports, someone familiar with Ball’s thinking on the matter offered this assessment, “There’s no need to break down a kid’s spirit for making a mistake.”
“We are exploring other options with (LiAngelo),” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “He’s out of there.”
It appears the main one of those options is to prepare the player for June’s NBA draft. While at least one mid-major college basketball program had invited LiAngelo to transfer to it, Ball told ESPN that they were not interested in such a move.
“I’m going to make him way better for the draft that UCLA ever could have,” Ball told ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
“We learned today of LiAngelo Ball’s intention to withdraw from UCLA,” UCLA Coach Steve Alford told ESPN’s Arash Markazi. “We respect the decision he and his family have made, and we wish him all the best in the future.”
Ball has already pulled the youngest of his three sons, LaMelo, out of high school, where he was set to be a junior. The 16-year-old is a highly regarded prospect who was set to follow his brothers to UCLA, but that plan could be in jeopardy, given the family disenchantment with the school’s handling of the fallout from the China episode.
In addition, UCLA officials may be concerned about LaMelo’s eligibility to eventually play there, as he could be receiving what the NCAA deems to be impermissible benefits while getting home-schooled as a member of the Big Baller Brand clan. “One official at UCLA said this likely means the end of what was supposed to be a long, fruitful run with the Ball brothers,” Markazi reported.
While Ball’s oldest son, Lonzo, is a prized rookie with the Lakers who was selected No. 2 overall in June’s NBA draft, the outspoken patriarch is fine with the possibility of his two younger sons playing in lesser leagues overseas, at least until they develop NBA-caliber skills. That way, Markazi reported, they would be “growing the (family’s) brand in other parts of the world instead of playing in college.”
If the NBA draft is the family’s focus, LiAngelo Ball might have an uphill battle. The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps reported last month that, unlike Lonzo, LiAngelo isn’t viewed by scouts as a legitimate NBA prospect.