After so much talk, LaVar Ball is finally taking action.
LaVar is pulling the youngest of his three sons, LaMelo Ball, out of Chino Hills High School in order to “home-school him and train him,” according to The LA Times’ Eric Sondheimer. LaMelo, a junior who turned 16 in August, has already committed to play college ball at UCLA like his older brothers Lonzo (now a Lakers rookie) and LiAngelo (a freshmen for the Bruins).
The news comes on the heels of several splashy marketing moves made by the family’s shoe and apparel company, Big Baller Brand.
The brand scrapped an iteration of Lonzo’s first signature shoe, the ZO2, and instead released the ZO2: Prime Remix a week ago, ahead of Lakers media day. In August, BBB also released a shoe for LaMelo, dubbed “Melo Ball 1s.” A reminder: LaMelo is 16 years old and is was in high school. The release immediately raised questions about college eligibility given his name attachment to a product being sold for profit.
But when it comes to pulling LaMelo from high school, LaVar directed his ire not toward the NCAA but Chino Hills head coach Dennis Latimore. (For context, LaVar has also already had disagreements with not one, but two of the high school’s former coaches. Both have been replaced.)
“I’m not dealing with the coach over there, I’m not dealing with the administration over there,” LaVar told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “It’s a new coach and I don’t like him one bit.”
According to LaVar, Melo was told by Latimore that “all those 50 shots a game, that’s going to stop.” Moreover, LaVar called out Latimore for having “his own frame of mind on how he wants to play.” Essentially, LaVar doesn’t want the coach to do much, y’know, coaching.
The timing of the decision, of course, raises some eyebrows. A conspiracy theorist might point out that giving a 16-year-old his own for-profit shoe could cause eligibility problems, and that pulling said 16-year-old before he has the chance to be ruled ineligible is quite a coincidence. LaVar has, very loudly, tried to control the message and framing of everything he and his family puts out. What better way to do that than to get ahead of the story? Basketball over everything, but only when basketball benefits everything else they do.
Homeschooling does happen with top prospects. But usually the player isn’t pulled from high school basketball altogether. For instance, Michael Porter Jr., now a freshman at Missouri, was homeschooled the last year of his high school career and still played for Nathan Hale High in Seattle.
Related: I’d pay a lot of money to see what LaVar’s homeschooling curriculum looks like. Do you think he’s more of a math or science guy? Is he going to make LaMelo read To Kill A Mockingbird or Lord of the Flies over the summer?
Just spoke to LaMelo Ball who says he's fine with the decision to homeschool. Thinks it'll make him "better ."— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) October 3, 2017
The big question now is what’s next for LaMelo. The AAU circuit will likely keep him in the eyes of scouts and teams alike. Maybe he can play overseas thereafter (and take the Big Baller Brand worldwide?) or even in the G-League and just wait until he’s draft-eligible in the summer of 2020. Regardless, the message LaVar has continued to send is clear: The Balls are all about ball.
“I don’t want no distractions on Melo,” LaVar told ESPN. “I’m going to homeschool him and make him the best basketball player ever.”