UCLA Basketball: How should Steve Alford handle the LaMelo Ball commitment?

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 07: LaMelo Ball, brother of Lonzo Ball
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 07: LaMelo Ball, brother of Lonzo Ball /

The UCLA Basketball team has top-tier point guard LaMelo Ball committed for 2019, but with his eligibility in doubt — and factoring in the random nature of his father LaVar Ball — how should Head Coach Steve Alford handle his commitment?

What you saw with LaVar Ball while his son Lonzo Ball was point guard for the UCLA Basketball team last year is nothing in comparison to what we could see in the next three years. Needless to say, it is going to be a distraction, though Head Coach Steve Alford did a fantastic job of drowning out that noise last season.

But it could get worse.

This week, news broke that LaVar Ball pulled his UCLA-committed youngest son LaMelo Ball from his high school, Chino Hills. Apparently this is due to the fact that LaVar did not get along with new basketball coach Dennis Latimore because LaMelo was told to curtail the amount of shots he takes.

Related Story: UCLA commit LaMelo Ball pulled out of Chino Hills High School

The plan is for LaMelo —who is currently ranked 30th in the nation in 2019 per Scout.com — to be home schooled and continue to train for the NBA while still being “on track” for UCLA. Aside from the uncertainty of the youngest Ball being academically eligible to enroll in a school like UCLA with home schooling (not saying he can’t do it, it just seems like basketball will be the main focus and not academics the next two years), but there is also the issue of LaMelo being eligible with the NCAA.

He recently released his own shoe through Big Baller Brand and if he receives compensation for this, there is a chance the NCAA will deny his eligibility. Does that bother LaVar? Nope. The NCAA is not his goal for his son, the NBA is. In regards to UCLA, LaVar has stated, “If he can’t play, he can’t play. It doesn’t mean he’ll stop working out and getting better,” and “Maybe in two years, they’ll change the rule and he’ll be able to go to the NBA straight out of high school”. So it doesn’t seem like UCLA is a priority for the Balls, or at least LaVar.

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That is where it gets sticky for Alford. As the Head Coach of the most decorated basketball program in NCAA history, Alford needs to worry about UCLA. His job is to win with the Bruins, not allow a helicopter parent to use his team as leverage for the advantage of that parent’s son.

Alford has to know that LaMelo’s eligibility is going to be questioned, which puts him in a bind. Does he trust that LaMelo will be eligible or does he have a backup plan? Are there other point guard prospects he is looking at?

There is also the potential issue that of LaVar becoming an even bigger distraction. Despite his brashness last season, he only bashed UCLA when they lost. Remember when he blamed UCLA’s “white guys” for not winning a championship (forgetting that his son is half white)? Still, LaVar was in the Bruins’ corner for the most part (though you would never really guess it as he never donned UCLA apparel), but what if he goes off the rails with the Bruins and Alford? It is possible.

We could very well find that out this season as his middle son, LiAngelo Ball, will be playing for the Bruins. Early projections have him coming off the bench and could only play 10-15 minutes per game. Will LaVar accept the coach’s decision or voice his disapproval?

If he does the latter with LiAngelo, it seems quite likely that he will do that with LaMelo. Just as he did with the Chino Hills Head Coach Latimore, I can see the possibility of LaVar clashing with Alford. It is not certain this will happen, but anything is possible with LaVar.

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So with all this heading directly at Alford, the coach needs to ask himself, for the good of UCLA, “is it worth it?” No matter what, the Ball Family seems like they will be fine. A high school kid with a Lamborghini will be fine. Will UCLA?