LiAngelo Ball center of attention at UCLA media day
Photo c/o @gelo on IG
By Jill Painter Lopez, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — There's a new Ball on the court at UCLA.
Cameras and cellphones captured the moment Wednesday as LiAngelo Ball walked toward the center of the court at Pauley Pavilion.
The younger brother of Lakers guard Lonzo Ball was making a debut of sorts at UCLA media day. The freshman was not made available to the media but he was there for pictures and practice.
Freshman Chris Smith noticed the hoopla as he walked alongside his teammate and said, with a hand over his eyes: "There's a Ball brother here?" and jokingly looked around.
Ball is sure to be under a microscope and face expectations unlike those faced by most college basketball players.
"It's hard. Obviously, Lonzo sets a very high bar," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "I will say knowing the family like I know, they're all made that way. They're all made in a championship pedigree. Gelo (pronounced Jello) is not going to be any different than that. He'll figure out his role as he gets into this thing. I know he'll fight and compete and extend his role as much as he possibly can because he's got that championship DNA that I think all of them have."
The Ball family was thrust into a media spotlight thanks to the brothers' outspoken father, Lavar. Lonzo Ball played just one year at UCLA, where the Bruins finished 31-5 and lost to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. LiAngelo follows this season. Lavar Ball has pulled his youngest son, LaMelo, out of high school and has said he's home-schooling him.
Ball is one of seven freshmen joining the Bruins but clearly is the most heralded because of the name on the back of his jersey.
"I think he has a pretty good head on (his shoulders)," junior Aaron Holiday said. "Obviously, coming in being one of the Ball brothers and his dad, there's a lot going on with him so he's handled himself pretty well, and I think he's good with that."
He's proven to be a reliable shooter in his young career and once had 72 points in a high school basketball game.
"He can shoot it, and we're going to need it," Alford said. "He's lost weight. He's in much better shape. I like the strength he adds. He gives us a different look when you've got maybe speed and athleticism in different areas of our backcourt. Gelo brings a whole different look of someone who is 230-235 pounds. You don't see a lot of guards with that kind of body, so we can post him. He can extend the floor to the NBA 3 with ease. He's like a lot of freshmen right now. As he learns defensively what needs to take place, he's going to be a very valuable piece."
LiAngelo Ball is listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, measurements that were updated in July.
His new teammates have noticed his shooting touch, and in a few weeks, they'll take the new Ball show on the road when UCLA takes a trip to China.
"He's been really well and shoots the ball extremely well," senior center Thomas Welsh said. "That's one thing if you give him space in the corner or wherever it is, he can knock the 3 down. I'm excited to see what he has to bring. All the freshmen have their own flavor and style in the game. Seeing how they all work into the new system will be interesting."