According to a report from TMZ, LaVar Ball has withdrawn LiAngelo Ball from UCLA.
LiAngelo was, obviously, one of the three UCLA players that was arrested in China for allegedly shoplifting from three high-end retail stores. The TMZ report states that LaVar is upset with UCLA for the punishment that they have handed down, quoting people close to LaVar as saying, “There’s no need to break down a kid’s spirit for making a mistake.” LiAngelo had been suspended from the program since the incident.
LiAngelo never played a game for UCLA, and with LaMelo Ball – the youngest of the three Ball brothers – having been pulled out of Chino Hills High School by LaVar, it seemed clear that he was never going to end up at UCLA, either.
What that means is that this is the end of a marriage that had become uncomfortable in recent weeks, and it’s probably the best-case scenario for UCLA.
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Put another way, LaVar just did Steve Alford a favor nearly as big as allowing Lonzo to don a UCLA jersey.
The uncomfortable truth is this: At this point, the Ball family is nothing more than a distraction for UCLA. Lonzo was good enough that the distraction was worth it. There’s an argument to be made that he saved Steve Alford’s job. He turned the Bruins from a 17-15 team into a top ten team that had a real chance to get to the Final Four in last year’s NCAA tournament. He was a first-team all-american and deserving of all the attention he got.
LiAngelo is not Lonzo.
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He’s not good enough for the baggage that he brings. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. It was unclear what, exactly, his role was going to be on the Bruins this season, but it was unlikely that he was going to be anything more than a role player. Aaron Holiday, Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, Prince Ali, Chris Smith. There is more than enough talent on UCLA’s perimeter to overcome the loss of LiAngelo, and I don’t think it’s that crazy to say that he was the sixth-best perimeter player Alford had at his disposal.
And it was his presence on the roster that turned what would have been a big story in the college basketball world into a topic that was discussed on every news network in America. What I mean is this: UCLA players getting arrested for shoplifting in China is the biggest story in college basketball. LaVar Ball’s son getting arrested for shoplifting in China turns into a twitter feud with Donald Trump and nets a 23-minute interview, followed by a 20-minute panel discussion, on CNN.
Without the promise of potentially bringing LaMelo into the fold, this was always going to be the way this story ended.
And UCLA didn’t even have to be the one that cut ties.