Yes, it’s really me y’all. The person who is prone to uncontrollable eye-rolling fits by the mere mention of Exploitation Weekly’s Father of the Year LaVar Ball. For me to go into the list that reads longer than a DC-20 aircraft (R.I.P. Phife) of incidents that have granted him his infamy is a laborious task of utter pointlessness and also one that will make me too depressed to finish writing this. However, the man that is as classy and sensible as a micro bikini carwash fundraiser for a Pentacostal church may have just made his shrewdest decision yet. And while my feelings for dude is less than warm I’ll be gotdamned if I’m not oddly impressed by it (I think I’m gonna be sick).
Yesterday the younger two Ball boys 16-year-old high school junior LaMelo and 19-year-old former UCLA signee LiAngelo signed one year deals with first division Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas. There was really no surprise here. The combination of LaVar pulling LaMelo out of Chino Hills High and withdrawing LiAngelo from UCLA in the wake of an international incident that garnered a saddening amount of importance (focus Harold, fight the hate!) the chances of them going pro in something else other than the association was quite imminent. But everything from the timing to the team to the timeline of shitbag shenanigans the preceded this event was……..lord help me it was a stroke of genius.
Let’s look at the ballplaying Balls in question. After running the previous two Chino High head coaches out of town LaVar unsurprisingly clashed with former Notre Dame and Arizona State standout and current head guy Dennis Lattimore. This time, instead of wielding his power one mo’ time over the Chino Hills athletic department he took his ball and went home (hehe) promising to mold him into the best player OF ALL TIME! Then less than a month later the middle Ball got caught shoplifting while traveling as a part of the UCLA basketball team. Long story short, attention was paid, proportions were blown out and somehow the Apricot PolPot got involved and helped spring them.
This is significant because in some sort of seedily serendipitous way both of the non-professional at the time Balls had nowhere to call their basketball home. So LaVar did what any father with two school aged kids (a bit of a stretch here I admit) would do, sign them to an agent. And now they’re headed to play in the Baltic and Lithuanian league! It bears worth note that they will be the only Americans on the team now that former Vanderbilt product Brad Tinsley has moved on and the village (yes village y’all) of Prienai is one of only 10,000 people. Can we say culturally awkward hilarity ensues?
But here’s the part y’all are waiting for, the part where I explain how (gag) brilliant this is. Well here goes. For LiAngelo it’s kind of a no brainer. Everyone that has consumed any kind of basketball media can tell you that the middle Ball has the longest road to the association. According to 247sports.com he was a 3-star prospect ranked 226th nationally.
I’m not going to even waste breath explaining how he got a ride to UCLA because duh but let’s look at how things worked out for players that committed in that same range. The three kids that were ranked in three spots ahead of him starting from 225th ranked signed to Texas Tech, Temple and Georgetown (please remember that this ain’t the Cheyney and Thompson Owls and Hoyas we’re talking about here) and the three guys right behind him signed with UNLV, Colorado and Georgia respectively. This is not to come off as a shot to Gelo or any if these kids as some (maybe even Gelo) will become good ball players all I’m saying is that you have to realize how damaging it would have been to LaVar’s ego to see his middle child have to claw and scratch for minutes possibly throughout his full four year career. Ain’t nothing Big Baller bout’ that.
LaMelo on the other hand was a five star prospect ranked 15th nationally for the Class of 2019. Besides finally running into a coach he couldn’t bully how could this make sense. He had a full ride to UCLA on deck (a mere formality for the Ball Bros) and has emerged as one of the most watched and highly touted high school basketball players in the country. Why pull him out of school where he would have presumably shredded his competition?
Well, to be 100% real deal Holyfield honest with you, in spite of his obvious talent buddy has holes in his game. Which hey, name me a 16-yer-old that doesn’t but when your LaVar Ball’s kid any inability to live up to the impossible hype heaped upon you is a sign of weakness that MUST be hidden. I imagine the clash with coach Lattimore probably came when he (like at least 95% of high school coaches) desired to have Melo play within something that resembles an actual system as opposed to you know waiting at half court for football passes as he shoots over JVers on his way to 93 points in a game.
This is where the warm (actually, really cold) refuge of Prenai, Lithuania comes into play. There’s already signs of LaVar pulling strings as there has been talk of a 20-25 minute per night role for the brothers (which sounds insane but I’ll hold my tongue). But this is the whole point, if LiAngelo proves not to be a viable prospect even on this level not many will see, if LaMelo finds out that the learning curve is immensely steeper by playing against grown ass men (seriously though, these Euro cats are built like rock solid refrigerator boxes…..that can shoot threes) not many will see. Sure the first few games will garner a Ball-esque amount of attention but the public will more or less give them a pass which we should (because they’re KIDS) but after that whether or not they make an impact they’ll sorta just fade into the background just as the Haranguing Houdini intended.
For a man that has garnered a well earned reputation for creating a spectacle out of nothing his greatest trick yet may be making two of his sons disappear. And I for one am wowed by the reveal. Sveiki atvykę į Lithuania LaMelo and LiAngelo, let’s hope you can stay visible, but then again maybe you’re willing assistants eager to appease the magician at any costs.