The Ball family is arguably the biggest talking point in basketball now and has been for the past few months. Everybody in America seems to know the Balls. First, there’s Lonzo Ball who was recently drafted second overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and has signed a four year contract worth $33 million with the Los Angeles Lakers. His brother, LaMelo, made headlines for scoring ninety-two points in a game at Chino Hills High School and already committing to play college basketball at UCLA despite only being fifteen years old. And who could forget LaVar Ball? The father of Lonzo and LaMelo has been on ESPN and other sports talk shows constantly. He has received criticism for saying he could beat Michael Jordan in a one-on-one, demanding a one billion dollar shoe deal for his sons, and claiming Lonzo is already better than two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry among many other things. These are the people that are widely discussed, but not many want to talk about the middle Ball brother, LiAngelo Ball.
LiAngelo, or Gelo, as he is most commonly called, averaged over 34 points per game in his senior year at Chino Hills and will play for UCLA in the fall. In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, his father LaVar stated that he doesn’t think he will make it to the NBA. People seem to agree with LaVar too. Many critics call Gelo too slow and big. They ridicule him for cherry picking and not playing defense. They call him a ball hog and overrated because of his brothers. I am not one of these critics. Not only can Gelo reach the NBA, but he could end up being the most successful of the three Ball brothers.
Gelo Ball is a pure scorer. He has the ability and mentality to score from anywhere on the court. During his high school career, he has shown that he can be very effective shooting off the catch or off the dribble. He can make shots from in the paint, inside the three point line, and well beyond the arc. The shooting guard has the confidence needed to be successful in the NCAA and the NBA. After missing a few jump shots, he does not get rattled and stop shooting. He will continue to shoot the ball no matter what. This is an important trait as Gelo is sure of his shot. He will not fold under pressure, and he wants to be the man to take difficult shots in late game scenarios. At 6’6” 240 lbs, Gelo is more mobile than he looks. He is not slow by any means. His football player-like build creates a matchup problem for the smaller defenders who guard him. Because of this, he is able to body his way down low and score inside. In addition to his prolific three point shot, Gelo loves to score using jump hooks and turnarounds over smaller defenders. He is too quick for bigs and too big for guards. If you put a big on him, he will use his quickness to blow by his defenders or he will stay around the arc and drain open threes all game. If you put a guard on him, he will easily post him up and score.
Gelo is a smart basketball player also. Like his brother Lonzo, he can read the game better than most people his age. He utilizes his unique physique to attack his opponents’ weaknesses. He is aware of his surroundings on the court and uses them to his ability. Although Gelo is known to force contested jump shots, he possesses the ability and willingness to pass. When teams try to double team him, he is effective in making the extra pass and spreading the ball around. A lot of his teammates’ open looks at Chino Hills came from his passes off of double teams. Another aspect of Gelo’s basketball intelligence and skill is his ability to use both hands. If someone is over playing his right side, he will take it to the basket and score with his left. One of his most notable moves is a jump hook, taken with both the right hand and left hand. Gelo has a knack for rebounding as well. He is stronger than most of his opponents and consistently overpowers them on the offensive glass. He follows his shot and crashes the boards allowing him to catch people sleeping and put his misses back up and in.
On the defensive end, Gelo hears endless criticism. He is accused of cherry picking and getting easy layups instead of playing defense. This is simply untrue. At Chino Hills, he played at the top of their zone, mainly guarding smaller perimeter players. His highlights show that after the other team scores or his team rebounds the ball, he sprints back down the court while the other players are either sulking or celebrating. He is then able to catch a long pass and lay the ball in just seconds after the other team’s possessions. Even if players run back on defense to check him, he has great hands and can catch passes over the smaller perimeter defenders and still easily score on the fast break. His defensive ability is underrated. His length allows him to clog up passing lanes, get steals, and block shots. A lot of Gelo’s playing style revolves around catching the other team being lazy. This shows his work ethic along with his high basketball IQ.
Gelo Ball is a silent killer. He never showboats when he scores and never goes out of his way to play fancy. He scores and then hustles back on defense. He uses his body to create his own shot and gets where he needs to be rather than trying to break players’ ankles. Whether it’s fighting for offensive rebounds, tipping passes on defense, or scoring the ball, Gelo is always involved in the play. He showcases grit and pure toughness on both ends of the floor as he is always fighting and using his strength to overpower his opponents. To the people who call him “overweight,” I would advise them not to take his muscle for fat. Gelo was always muscular, but he has put on even more muscle since the conclusion of his high school season. This increased fitness will be vital if he wants to succeed in the higher levels. The great amount of muscle he put on in just a few months displays that Gelo isn’t just battling on the court. Day in and day out, he is in the weight room working hard to get to the next level. I cannot express how important his maturity is for success, especially for an eighteen year old.
When I look at Gelo Ball, I see a player like Paul Pierce. He is an exceptional three point and mid-range shooter who uses his body to score inside as well. He is tough, gritty, perseverant, and willing to do the dirty work. He has what it takes to not only make the NBA but to be an all-star. I’m a big fan of LaVar Ball, but he’s gotten this one wrong. His son, Gelo, will make the NBA and he will thrive. With his hard work ethic and raw talent, the sky is the limit for Gelo Ball.