LaMelo Ball discusses his half-court shot; Lonzo Ball weighs in

Lonzo Ball’s youngest brother, LaMelo Ball, was on UCLA’s radar before he entered high school two years ago. Because of the half-court shot he made a couple weeks ago – it wasn’t a buzzer-beater – the Chino Hills High School sophomore has is being discussed in circles that include Stephen Curry.

The youngest of the three Ball brothers, who committed to UCLA while he was in eighth grade, discusses his now famous half-court shot in the video below. Lonzo Ball also addresses the shot by his brother, who he dubs a “crazy player.”

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Lonzo Ball changed his quirky shooting motion, then changed it back


Back in August, before he became the most exciting player in college basketball, Lonzo Ball was worried about NBA scouts picking him apart. The UCLA freshman’s concern specifically surrounded his quirky shooting motion.

So he changed it – for a few weeks. A decision to experiment with more conventional form was reached during a meeting between Ball, the UCLA coaching staff, his father and his trainer. They collectively formulated an experiment that would take place over three weeks in August ending with the Bruins’ three exhibition games in Australia at the end of the summer. The trial run didn’t go well.

“I was just second-guessing it the whole time,” Ball said.

He immediately returned to the sidewinding form that stretches his right arm across his body at a 45-degree angle. Ball is a right-handed player lifting the ball above his head on the left side of his face, a path typically taken by left-handed shooters. You have to see it in slow motion to entirely appreciate it.

READ: The complete feature story detailing the evolution of Lonzo Ball’s shot

Ball has plenty of reason to feel secure in his decision to return to his unconventional form. Continue reading

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Is T.J. Leaf the UCLA basketball team’s MVP so far?

Freshman T.J. Leaf  had a career-high 25 points and 8 assists to go along with 10 rebounds in No. 2 UCLA's 102-62 win over UCSB on Wednesday night.

Freshman T.J. Leaf had a career-high 25 points and 8 assists to go along with 10 rebounds in No. 2 UCLA’s 102-62 win over UCSB on Wednesday night.

That fact that it’s even a discussion is a high enough compliment to T.J. Leaf. The “other freshman” has been good enough to join the conversation with Lonzo Ball about who UCLA’s most valuable player has been during the team’s 11-0 start. Pretty good company, to put it lightly, considering Ball is probably the current leading candidate for National Player of the Year.

The two classmates put on a show last night in No. 2 UCLA’s 102-62 win over UCSB. Leaf finished two assists shy and Ball three assists shy of their first collegiate triple-doubles. To put that in perspective, there are just four triple-doubles in the prestigious history of the UCLA basketball program. Leaf had a career-high 25 points and eight assists to go along with 10 rebounds. Ball had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

As the point guard, Ball’s impact is more difficult to measure. In fact, the best gauge is probably the win column and UCLA is obviously unscathed in that area. But Leaf’s numbers are impossible to ignore. He is UCLA’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game and the second-leading rebounder with 9.4 per game. Looking a little deeper, his shooting percentage (68%) is the best on the team leading the nation in shooting percentage. He has the heft to bang in the paint and the skill to score from anywhere, evidenced by shooting 54 percent from 3-point range. Oh yeah, in UCLA’s biggest game of the season, he had 17 and 13 at Kentucky. It’s hard to argue anybody other than Ball is the team’s MVP, but what Leaf is doing thus far is exceptional.

Here are links to last night’s coverage:

  • The game story, more about Leaf and Ball’s pursuit of statistical milestones than the scoreboard
  • A notebook leading with UCLA’s agreement to play Kentucky, Ohio State and North Carolina in 2017, 2018 and 2019
  • Video of Lonzo Ball’s postgame press conference, where he said he was unaware of his near triple-double
  • Video of T.J. Leaf and Aaron Holiday (20 points, 6 assists) at the podium after the game
  • Video of Steve Alford, who also addressed Saturday’s upcoming meeting with Ohio State
  • Our John McCoy’s photo gallery from the game
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  • Lonzo Ball could be part of best ever draft class of point guards

    UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball and Kentucky's Malik Monk (5) are two of the four point guards projected to be picked in the top five of the 2017 NBA draft

    UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball and Kentucky’s Malik Monk (5) are two of the four point guards projected to be picked in the top five of the 2017 NBA draft

    Should he turn pro after this season, could Lonzo Ball be part of the best draft class of point guards ever?

    Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron asks this question after Ball outplayed not one, but two Kentucky point guards expected to join him in the 2017 NBA draft. Malik Monk is playing out of position at Kentucky because De’Aaron Fox is that good. But neither Ball, Fox nor Monk are expected to be among the top two point guards selected in the draft.

    Ball will face off with the top point guard prospect in Pac-12 play when UCLA visits Seattle Feb 4. Washington freshman Markelle Fultz is projected to be top pick in the next NBA draft by Draft Express followed by N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith at No. 2.

    Ball is currently projected as the fourth pick and Monk the fifth pick. Kansas freshman Josh Jackson is the only player in the Draft Express top five who isn’t a point guard.

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    UCLA basketball beefs up resume with major conference wins


    It wasn’t just that No. 14 UCLA beat SEC and Big Ten teams over the weekend, it was how those wins were achieved that should inspire some more confidence.

    For the first time in this young season, UCLA found itself in not one, but two tight games. It won both, claiming the tournament title at the Wooden Legacy in the process.

    In Friday’s semifinal it staved off a pesky Nebraska team that nearly erased UCLA’s 15-point second-half lead. Then it withstood four lead changes and two tie scores in the final five minutes of Sunday’s win over Texas A&M in the tournament title game.

    It’s not like they’re toppling the best teams in the country (Wait for it…UCLA plays at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday!) but these are major conference opponents that pushed the Bruins to provide answers to some significant questions. Most notably, could freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf answer the bell in close games? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Continue reading

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