Six years and three seasons of the Ball family and UCLA. That was the plan.
From the time Lonzo Ball committed to UCLA on Jan. 8, 2014, until LaMelo Ball left after his one-and-done season in the spring of 2020. That was the expected timeline.
It was supposed to be a fruitful relationship for both sides, with UCLA getting three talented players — including at least one NBA lottery pick and future star — and the Ball family boosting its profile by sending three sons to one of college basketball’s most historic programs for one season each.
After a little more than one season, it looks like the relationship might be coming to a close.
LaVar Ball pulled his son LiAngelo out of UCLA on Monday afternoon, less than a month after LiAngelo was one of three UCLA players arrested and indefinitely suspended for shoplifting in China. None of the three suspended players have appeared in a game yet, and there is no timetable for their return to the court.
The elder Ball made the decision to withdraw LiAngelo without notifying UCLA head coach Steve Alford or any of his assistant coaches.
LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers and the seventh-ranked prospect in the 2019 class by ESPN, is still committed to play at UCLA. LaVar said the plan is still for him to play for the Bruins — but multiple sources have expressed doubt LaMelo will ever step foot on campus. There were questions regarding LaMelo’s future at UCLA beginning in the summer, when he was given his own signature shoe from Big Baller Brand. Players lose their amateur status when they receive “pay in any form” for their athletic skills or when there is a promise of payment following college. If LaMelo was paid for the sneakers, he could be deemed ineligible. Those worries were compounded when LaVar pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills High School in early October, opting to home-school his youngest son. LaVar said he was going to “make him the best basketball player ever” after pulling him out of high school.
“I can get him the best game every day,” Ball told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne in October. “I just gotta go down to the hood and say, ‘Who wanna ball with my son?'”
With LiAngelo suddenly withdrawn from UCLA, the chances of LaMelo still going there in the fall of 2019 have grown slimmer. What’s next for LiAngelo and LaMelo remains to be seen. LaVar said the next step is to get LiAngelo ready for the NBA draft, and he didn’t plan on transferring to a different school. LaMelo could…