He has generated the buzz of an NBA All-Star, logged more airline miles than a Globetrotter and inspired more highlight clips and GIFs than any TV series.
Now, LaMelo Ball — dubbed by father LaVar the “Greatest Show in [High School] Hoops” — will star with his undefeated SPIRE Institute teammates on FloHoops.com.
Ball joined the SPIRE, based in Geneva, Ohio, in November after highly publicized runs with the Lithuanian pro squad BC Vytautas, and as the centerpiece of his father’s fledgling Junior Basketball Association. LaMelo’s whirlwind, international tour brings him back to the American prep courts, where he first garnered attention as a star for Chino Hills High School in suburban Los Angeles.
LaMelo’s Legend Begins
It’s not often regular-season high school hoops gets headline billing on the cable sports punditry circuit. Then again, no players at any level of basketball put up 92 points, like LaMelo did in February 2017.
His 92 points for Chino Hills marked the national high since Tigran Grigoryan’s 100-pointer 14 years earlier.
Foreshadowing his young basketball career still to come, Ball’s 92-point effort became an instant source of controversy. Did lax defense bolster his scoring output?
Maybe, maybe not — either way, not many people can register 92 points in an empty gym with the 32-minute game clock standard in American prep basketball. Even fewer can do so draining pull-up 3-pointers from half court.
Ball in the Family
Speaking of foreshadowing, patriarch LaVar Ball has not been shy about… Well, anything. But particularly not his desire to see each of his sons play together for their hometown Los Angeles Lakers. A hypothetical family reunion wouldn’t be the first time the trio donned the same colors in competition.
Curiosities toward LaMelo first piqued when the youngest of the three basketball-playing Ball brothers helped Chino Hills to an undefeated season and California Interscholastic Federation state championship in 2016. He dropped 14 points to complement middle brother LiAngelo’s 18 and then-UCLA-bound, current Lakers point guard Lonzo’s typically great all-around 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five rebounds.
Lithuania boasts a rich basketball history, producing such noteworthy NBA imports as Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis. LaMelo Ball wove his own name into the nation’s tied-dyed hoop lore when he bucked conventions and left Chino Hills with two years of high school eligibility still remaining.
Ball played just eight games for BC Vytautas, but that was enough time to make global headlines in a 31-point game, which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer reminiscent of his Chino Hills days.
LaMelo returned to the Baltics this past fall as the main attraction of the JBA All-Stars. The collection of players from the start-up league faced international competition in Estonia, where the dangerous 3-point-shooting Ball showed off a new wrinkle to his still-developing game.
A-SPIRE-ing for Greatness
His unprecedented year criss-crossing the globe has LaMelo back in the States, and flourishing alongside a talented roster at SPIRE Institute.
Taller than he was at Chino Hills, with a more explosive leap, Ball now shows off an ability to attack the rim.
It’s a quality that fits nicely with the rim-rattling style of undefeated SPIRE.
Kyle Kensing is a freelance sports journalist in southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.