Last night, UCLA lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Kentucky, ending Lonzo Ball’s career with the program. The Bruins were a popular pick for reaching both the Final Four and the National Championship, but they couldn’t offset a historic night from De’Aaron Fox.
Ball’s last game was lackluster. Besides losing out to another elite team and elite point guard prospect in a head-to-head battle, he didn’t live up to his superstar billing. He finished with 10 points on 4-10 shooting (1-6 from 3-point land), 8 assists and 4 turnovers in 38 minutes.
It’s not the worst last game ever, but it’s nothing compared to fellow first round, top-10 caliber point guard Fox, who dropped a cool 39 points on 13-20 shooting with 4 assists and 3 boards with only 1 turnover. I’m curious how Lonzo’s marketing genius of a dad, Lavar, will spin this one.
I’m writing this because Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft roughly 30 minutes after losing the game.
I’m not stupid – I know he only went to college because he wasn’t allowed to go straight from high school. I’ve long believed that one-and-dones are bad for college basketball and for the kids. Not everyone is going to make it big in the NBA regardless, but there are kids who won’t benefit at all from their one year of playing college ball. College teams (save Cheatin’ John Calipari) have to regroup consistently because of guys leaving early.
I think college basketball should operate like college baseball, where you can leave for the pros right out of high school, but if you commit to a college, you have to stay for at least three years. I get the reason most of these kids go to school is for sports, and that’s all fine and good. But you still are going to school. And going for one year is basically not going to school at all. It’s making a mockery out of the student-athletes of sports that either don’t have a major professional sport to pursue after school or strict requirements on when you can leave for a draft.
Lonzo was never going to UCLA more than this year. But based on the game he just had and the timing of his commitment, why couldn’t he have just waited until today to say it? Most of his bad press comes from his father, but I think this reflects poorly on him. This makes him look like he didn’t care about how his team did in the tournament and makes it look like he gave up. Whether he actually did or not is besides the point. It’s about public image.
Cover photo from Deadspin.