UCLA Bruins

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point game was to ‘shut LaVar up’

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In one of the best individual performances of the college basketball season, Kentucky freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox scored 39 points in the Wildcats’ 86-75 Sweet 16 victory over UCLA and his counterpart for that evening, Lonzo Ball.

Even though Ball had picked up a win earlier that season at Kentucky, it was the second time Fox had gotten the better of his fellow floor general.

The second meeting had three months of build up, as Ball went on have an All-American season while his father, LaVar, became a media sensation with his outlandish comments. Fox went on to have a notable season as well but that was in the shadow of the Balls’ frequent radio and television appearances.

In an interview with Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated, Fox revealed that the patriarch of the Ball household helped inspire his incredible tournament performance.

“Kill mode all the time,” is how Fox described his mindset before the UCLA game in March. “Shut Lavar Ball up,” is how he explains it a few months later.

In addition to his 39 points, he had three boards, four assists (to one turnover) and two steals. His defense also helped limit Ball to 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting and 1-of-6 from three and eight assists (to four turnovers).

Of course, Fox was mainly motivated by the chance to avenge an earlier a loss — one in which Lonzo shushed the Rupp Arena fans — earn a spot in the Elite Eight and bolster his draft stock against a projected top-2 pick. The comment he made to SI is harmless, especially when you look at LaVar’s well-documented claims and personal attacks. If anything, this could be laying the groundworks for a one-on-one rivalry at the next level with Lonzo, especially if they wind up in the same division, as some are currently predicting.

Ball, a Southern California native, is expected to go No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox the first lead guard after Markelle Fultz and Ball to be selected. DraftExpress.com currently has him going to the Sacramento Kings with the No. 5 overall pick.

VIDEO: UCLA commit Jaylen Hands jumps over parents to win dunk contest

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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UCLA commit Jaylen Hands participated in a dunk contest on Friday night as he jumped over his own parents to win.

The five-star point guard is going to be expected to replace Lonzo Ball in the Bruins starting lineup next season, as Ball recently departed for the NBA Draft. The No. 24 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Hands was a McDonald’s All-American this season.

(H/t: BallerVisions)

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

LeBron James tells LaVar Ball to “keep my family out of your mouth”

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After speaking his mind loudly for months, LaVar Ball has finally struck a nerve with one of basketball’s biggest names.

LeBron James.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star responded Tuesday to Ball’s claims that his children – UCLA star Lonzo and high schoolers LiAngelo and LaMelo – have brighter futures than James’ 12- and 9-year-old sons in basketball.

“Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth, keep my family out of your mouth,” James told ESPN. “This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”

LaVar Ball may have only been a part of the national basketball consciousness for a couple of months, but he’s made no shortage of outrageous remarks. He said he would have beaten Michael Jordan while in his prime as a player. That he wants a $1 billion apparel deal for his sons. He said that Lonzo is already better than two-time defending MVP Steph Curry.

His commentary of James’ children, though, elicited the strongest response to him yet.

“You got LeBron, it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad,’” Ball said on the “In The Zone Podcast with Chris Broussard. “And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft, you’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”

James’ eldest son, LeBron James, Jr., has already garnered quite a bit of attention for his play, with his grassroots mixtapes getting millions of views.

Lonzo Ball’s UCLA team is set to play Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this week after Ball turned in an All-American freshman season that figures to end with an early selection in June’s NBA draft.

“I actually like his son,” James said. “I like his game.”

Lonzo’s game is something James respects, which obviously isn’t the case regarding his father’s comments.

“He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me,” James said. “But keep my family out of this.”

UCLA has been dealing with the distraction of LaVar Ball’s comments all season, so it’s likely the Bruins will be able to shrug them off once more this week, but given the media crush that their game against Kentucky was going to engender anyway, having the likes of LeBron James enter the fray only acts as a multiplier to the questions that will be asked. Which isn’t even to mention the rampant speculation regarding coach Steve Alford potentially returning to coach his alma mater, Indiana.

It’s going to be an absolute circus around UCLA this week.

Then they’ve got to go play Kentucky.