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Hate LaVar Ball if you like, but don’t project that hate on LaMelo

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I don’t really like LaVar Ball. I also don’t know LaVar Ball, but I’ve been witness – and co-conspirator – to the way he’s carved out a sizable portion of the discussion of sports and the culture of sports for himself, his sons and, most brazenly, his brand. That’s more my issue than LaVar Ball, the man, someone I’ve never met and assume is probably a fine dude and an attentive dad.

LaVar Ball, the public figure, though, represents an exhausting strain of persona that’s finely-tuned to be entertaining on television and discussion-driving on the Internet, which is to say he’s loud, brash, arrogant, uncouth and nakedly ambitious.

To be fair, and honest, it’s not easy to gain a foothold in media, or America, without most – if not all – of those traits. If Ball utilized those characteristics with a little subtlety or cleverness, I’d probably find him a lot more fun. Instead, we’re getting apparel looking to cash in on – or more likely, keep the news cycle spinning – a misogynist scolding of a female broadcaster. You can laugh at or with the other out-sized things Ball has said over the last year, but I can’t do anything but shudder with the ‘Stay In Yo Lane’ business.

Which is all to say, LaVar Ball has earned much of whatever distaste, dislike and dissatisfaction there is with him and his actions. He probably knows that, and he almost certainly doesn’t care.

His 15-year old son, though?

Nah, that kid doesn’t deserve the public’s scorn.

He especially doesn’t deserve a public-shaming in the form of the two-plus minute lowlight tape that found its way to the Internet this weekend. It is unequivocally cruel to do that to a kid not old enough to drive himself to his AAU games. It’s hard to fathom the jealousy, contempt and smallness it takes from a person to displace their dislike of an adult to his teenage son.

Laughing at LaMelo Ball’s now-infamous “mixtape” also missed the forest for the trees.

When it comes to basketball and his kids, LaVar Ball has been explicitly clear that he’s uninterested in raising or coaching traditional basketball players, and guess what, we’re out of a traditional age of basketball. Watching Lonzo Ball at UCLA this past season or LaMelo pull up from half-court, it’s obvious this family cares not for basketball norms, which are bending in their direction anyway. The 3-point line is further becoming a starting point rather than a threshold for range. Letting loose as many 3s as possible is a strategy that is becoming more mainstream. Playing with a certain flair, well that’s always been cool as hell.

Squeezing off 3-pointers at a rapid rate isn’t easy, either. You’ve got to do it from deep and off the dribble, two moves that are difficult for pros to get a handle on. A 15-year-old? If he’s trying to do it, he’s going to look silly sometimes. He’s going to have airballs and outtakes, bricks and bloopers. Steph Curry can do what he does because he’s mastered the fundamental steps that build his wild capabilities. LaMelo, obviously by a basketball philosophy extension of LaVar, looks to be pushing the boundaries of a style that no teenager could utilized in any sort of refined manner. That’s exactly what he’s been building toward his whole life, though.

“[LaMelo] never played against kids his own age,” LaVar told The Ringer last year. “That’s why it’s so easy for him in high school. He’s been playing 17U since he was 11 years old. I had him playing against eighth-graders when he was 6 and 7. It’s nothing new to him. He’s always seen people’s stomachs. He ain’t never been face-to-face with nobody.”

LaMelo’s game is being built to push limits – his own, the sport’s, convention. Those are lofty goals for any player, especially a 15-year old. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t. Whatever pause LaVar Ball gives you, it’s hard to argue his vision for his sons hasn’t paid dividends. One is on his way to being a top-three pick in the NBA draft, a second is on scholarship at UCLA and the third is a top-15 recruit in his class. By whatever curved system you want to grade those accomplishments, they are astounding for a single family.

LaVar Ball has invited – and welcomed – ridicule. He’s a grown man who knows what he’s doing. He deserves credit for raising sons who have achieved on the floor and been solid kids off it. It’s also fair to be less-than-amused with some of his words and actions, and to be wary of a style of game he’s preaching that looks to eschew the team aspects of a decidedly team game.

Even more fair is to be uncomfortable with the way he’s seeming to be leveraging his children’s achievements to create a brand and business that appears to be less centered on his sons’ talents than on himself.

Who knows how LaMelo Ball’s future plays out, but it’s unfair and wrong for the public to hold a 15-year old high school sophomore that still sports a wispy, mid-puberty mustache and braces accountable for their feelings toward his father, even if LaVar is determined to test that resolve.

Ball State forward Zach Hollywood found dead in off-campus apartment

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Zach Hollywood, a redshirt freshman on the Ball State basketball team, has died, the university confirmed to multiple local news outlets Tuesday.

He was 19 years old.

Hollywood redshirted last season at Ball State after averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in Bradley, Ill.

Muncie police are investigating the death at Hollywood’s off-campus apartment, according to WTHR-TV.

“On behalf of Ball State University, it is with profound sadness that we learned today of the passing of Zachary “Zach” Hollywood, a student from Bradley, Illinois,” the school said in a statement. “Zach has been a part of our family for the past year. During his time on campus, he was a member of men’s basketball team and made many positive impressions throughout campus.

“This is a tragedy. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family, friends and teammates. “For members of our Ball State family who need support during this difficult time, we encourage them to take advantage of the numerous resources available on- and off-campus.”

Hollywood’s death is a tragic turn in an already devastating story for his family, which lost Zach’s mother, Susan, suddenly just over one year ago.

3-on-3 at the Final Four for $100,000? It’s happening

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The Final Four just got more exciting.

On Tuesday, Intersport announced a 3-on-3 tournament that they will be hosting at the Final Four with a $100,000 payout for the winners. The participants must be seniors that have exhausted their collegiate eligibility, the teams will be created based on conference and the rules will be standard, international 3-on-3 rules: one-point for a bucket inside the arc, two points for a bucket outside the arc, 12-second shot clocks and games played to 21 points, or whoever has the highest score after 10 minutes. Each all-star team will feature four players, including one sub.

And, well, this is awesome.

I cannot express enough how much I love this idea.

One potential pothole here is that teams that are playing in the Final Four will, quite clearly, not have players eligible to participate.

It also should be noted that since “three-pointers” are now worth two points and “two-pointers” are now worth one, the value of long-range shooting is increased even more.

With all that in mind, why don’t we make a quick power ranking of the teams that can be created from the nine biggest conferences in college hoops:

  1. ACC: Grayson Allen (Duke), Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Joel Berry II (North Carolina), Ben Lammers (Georgia Tech)
  2. Big East: Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Marcus Foster (Creighton)
  3. Big 12: Devonte’ Graham (Kansas), Jevon Carter (West Virginia), Jeffery Carroll (Oklahoma State), Zach Smith (Texas Tech)
  4. AAC: Rob Gray (Houston), B.J. Taylor (UCF), Gary Clark (Cincinnati), Obi Enechionya (Temple)
  5. Pac-12: Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart (USC), George King (Colorado), Thomas Welsh (UCLA)
  6. Big Ten: Nate Mason (Minnesota), Scottie Lindsay (Northwestern), Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas (Purdue)
  7. Atlantic 10: E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell (Rhode Island), Peyton Aldridge (Davidson), Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
  8. SEC: Yante Maten (Georgia), Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss), Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford (Arkansas)
  9. WCC: Jock Landale and Emmett Naar (Saint Mary’s), Jonathan Williams III (Gonzaga), Silas Melson (Gonzaga)

I had way too much fun putting this together.

What did I miss?

Harsh Reality: Indiana did not do Grant Gelon wrong, getting cut is part of sports

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What happened to Grant Gelon sucks, and I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would try to argue otherwise.

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Crown Point, Indiana, Gelon accepted a scholarship offer from then-Indiana head coach Tom Crean as a member of the Class of 2016. His commitment was something of a surprise at the time; Gelon was a two-star prospect, according to Rivals, and ranked 402nd in the class, according to 247 Sports. At the time, Gelon reportedly had seven scholarship offers: Central Michigan, UIC, Toledo, Iona, Youngstown State, IUPUI and Western Carolina.

It was a reach for Crean, but it was also a dream come true for an Indiana kid getting a chance to don the cream and crimson.

Which is what made what happened this spring particularly painful.

Crean was fired on March 16th. Indiana hired Archie Miller to replace him on March 27th. Five weeks later, after a handful of workouts with the new coaching staff, Miller called Gelon into his office — the date, according to the Northwest Indiana Times, was May 3rd — and told him that he was being cut. There was not going to be minutes available, the staff said, for a sophomore that played in just 12 games last season, and that finding a place to transfer would be Gelon’s best option.

“I told them I wanted to stay,” Gelon told the Indy Star. “I told them, I’m making my mind up, I’m gonna push hard, show them what I can do, I’m here for a reason. When I said that, it was like, ‘Whoa, slow down.’ They were kind of making that sound like it wasn’t an option.”

That’s because it wasn’t.

Miller was cutting Gelon.

He was not cutting his scholarship, mind you. The Indiana student-athlete bill of rights protects players from losing their tuition due to poor performance on the court or the field. Gelon would still be getting his education paid for if he opted to remain at Indiana, he just wouldn’t be playing for the Hoosiers. Gelon’s departure opened up a scholarship for the Hoosiers that eventually went to Race Thompson, a four-star power forward that reclassified into the Class of 2017 in order to enroll at Indiana this year.

“Coach Miller believes honesty in evaluating talent, while often difficult, is the appropriate measure to take at all times and in the best interest of each player,” a statement released by the Indiana athletic department read. “Grant was made aware that our staff believed his abilities were not of the caliber that would allow him to receive playing time of any kind in the future for the IU program.”

I feel for Gelon here. I really do. Getting cut sucks, and everyone reading this now has probably gone through it at some point in their life. It happens all the time, in every sport, at every age group. Once you get to a level in athletics where you’re playing in more than your hometown rec league, it gets competitive. If you’re not good enough, you don’t make the team. That is how this works. Gelon found that out the hard way.

And frankly, what Miller did is not uncommon. It’s called running a player off, and it happens all the time at every program. Gelon had a bad enough season as a freshman that there is no guarantee that he would have kept his spot on the team had Crean kept his job. Simply put, he is not a Big Ten basketball player. I’d wager that two out of every five transfers at the Division I level are the result of a player transferring out of a school — either because he was forced or because the writing was on the wall — to a lower level, one more in line with his skill-set.

That’s what happened with Gelon. He’s now at State Fair Community College in Missouri, where he’ll spend a year before looking to climb his way back into the Division I ranks, most likely at the low-major level.

And no matter how many interviews that he or his family gives, you won’t find me saying that Indiana handled this the wrong way.

Was Miller callous?

That wouldn’t surprise me. He’s not the type of guy to mince words, and there really is not a good way to sugar-coat, ‘You are not good enough for us.’

But Gelon was not having his scholarship taken away. Indiana was living up to their promise of paying for his education. They did not do him wrong. The staff gave him more than a month to prove himself as a player and, eventually, made the decision he would not be in their plans moving forward.

So he was cut. That opening allowed a four-star power forward to enroll this year.

That’s the harsh reality of life in the Big Ten.

And there’s nothing wrong with the coach of a basketball team doing what Miller and Indiana did.

VIDEO: UConn’s Kwintin Williams would win the NBA dunk contest

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Think that’s too strong?

Look at this dunk:


A post shared by Kwintin Williams (@jumpmanebig) on

He also did this over the summer:

Williams is a 6-foot-7, 215 pound JuCo transfer that should provide UConn with some minutes in the frontcourt this season.

LSU officially announces addition of Kavell Bigby-Williams

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LSU has announced the addition of Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams, a 6-foot-11 junior that was the National Junior College Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Bigby-Williams, who is a native of London, averaged 3.0 points and 2.8 boards last season as the Ducks reached the Final Four, but he played the majority of the season while under investigation for an alleged sexual assault that occurred while he was at Gillette College in Wyoming.

The local County Attorney declined to charge Bigby-Williams with a crime, and Gillette College police consider the case closed.

“The university conducted a responsible and comprehensive review before approving the transfer,” a release posted on LSU’s Athletics site read, “including close coordination with Title IX officials, multiple discussions with Gillette and Oregon officials and a thorough examination of available public records.”

LSU head coach Will Wade was quoted in that release as well: “This is an issue we all take seriously and we made absolutely sure we did our due diligence before considering moving forward. Kavell understands that and has made clear to me that he’s going to repay our confidence by representing LSU with his very best on and off the court.”