With Lonzo Ball and his brothers coming to Westwood, things are going to improve for the UCLA Basketball team. That is because it will revolve around the talented Ball Family.
All eyes will be on UCLA Basketball this coming season for two reasons: (1) to see if Head Coach Steve Alford can improve after a despondent 15-17 record from last year and (2) to take in the grandeur that is Lonzo Ball.
It has been three years since Alford took over and what started on a high note with two trips to the Sweet Sixteen has since been soured by Alford’s inability to change which resulted in UCLA missing the NCAA Tournament altogether last season.
Alford has been attempting to run an uptempo offense that offers no complimentary defensive strategy, which is centered around his son, soon-to-be senior guard Bryce Alford, and it has not worked the way he hoped.
Not a bad plan, but not great. UCLA has found ways to be successful with it (they beat #1 Kentucky by 10 points last season), but when other teams figure out Steve Alford’s game plan, Alford often fails to adjust.
Alford has stated his willingness to change, but this fall it seems that change is going to happen whether it is in Alford’s playbook or not.
Last week, an article by Danny Chau came out of The Ringer (the new site from Bill Simmons) titled, Be Like Steph? LaVar Ball and his three sons are trying to change basketball, one 30-point shot at a time.
In the article, Chau discusses how Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors has changed the game with his deadly outside shot and how that is translating to the younger generations of basketball. One generation in particular has been developing in UCLA’s own back yard of Chino Hills, CA with the Ball Family.
Alford has done a fine job of recruiting for the Bruins in the last few years, so much that he has not only signed one of the top point guards in the nation in Lonzo Ball, but he also has commitments from his two younger brothers. In the next three years, UCLA will have both LaMelo Ball and LiAngelo Ball also coming to Westwood. Alford has not just recruited Lonzo, he has recruited the entire family… but that comes with stipulations.
Since January 8, 2014 (the day Lonzo Ball committed to UCLA) Bruin fans have been anticipating a UCLA offense that will not only have fire power, but leadership to return UCLA to national prominence. Ball is going to be that player. It is the change that UCLA needs, but will it work with Alford’s system? Like it or not, it is going to have to.
One of the more interesting quotes from Chau’s article comes from LaVar Ball, the father of Lonzo, LaMelo and LiAngelo.
"Lonzo will be used the exact same way he’s used now. That’s what’s going to shock everybody. He’s going to change the whole dynamic of the team over there. Everybody has to adjust to him. Because Alford knows I’m not giving him a player to change. He’s been watching my boys for a long time. He knows exactly what they do."
And there you have it. The Bruins will be changing next season because they have a player that has the ability to do so. They will be playing his game.
Though it sounds like an overbearring statement by a helicopter parent, LaVar Ball is right, at least from a talent standpoint. Lonzo Ball might be the best player on the team. He has the ability, the skill and the I.Q. to turn UCLA Basketball into a perennial powerhouse. He is just that good.
The thing with UCLA is that they have a lot of talented players, Alford is just not using them to their potential. Development is also an issue, but as the Ball’s father alluded to, at least with Lonzo, Alford will not need to develop his son. Lonzo comes in “as is”.
And maybe that is what the Bruins need, an individual that has the skills to change the game. Ball is a player that can make everyone around him better and that is what we will see in 2016-17.
But will Alford be ready for it? It seems he is going to have to if he wants to keep his relationship with the Ball Family and the commitments from Lonzo’s siblings intact and in good standing. It has been documented that Alford can skew a relationship by not following through with promises, using the Zach LaVine exit from UCLA as an example.
This time, Alford will not be losing one player, he could be missing out on an entire family of skilled ballers, and that will directly affect his status as head coach of the Bruins.
Still, Alford has stated his need to change and that is coming with the addition of Lonzo. Next season we are going to see and hear a new UCLA Basketball team, though it will be played in the key of B(all). It might be slightly out of tune at first, but by the end of the season it should be music to Bruin fan’s ears.