Do LaMelo Ball’s 92 Points Matter?
In case you haven’t been on the internet in the past two weeks, LaMelo Ball, the most interesting high school prospect since Andrew Wiggins, dropped 92 points in his last game. Usually when you hear about a high schooler dropping 92 points, or pulling up for three from the half court line, it would be safe to assume he would get his own Slam Magazine cover with “The Chosen One” as the headline. But aside from trending on twitter, and a couple highlights on Facebook, nobody is really talking about the 92 points LaMelo Ball dropped.
Usually when I see that a player scored 92 points in a game, I immediately assume that we’re looking at the next Tracy McGrady, an otherworldly scoring guard who can seemingly get to the basket at will. Hell, we may even be looking at the next Steph Curry. LaMelo Ball is the most popular high school athlete at the present moment, and while its well deserved, it seems like there isn’t enough hype.
Some people weren’t impressed by the 92 and commented that he was a well known “cherry picker”, which simply means he doesn’t get back on defense and waits near the basket after his team gets the rebound. Another player that successfully cherry picked? Jack Taylor out of Grinnell. He did it twice, scoring 109 and 138.
Scoring 92 points raises a question, an important one at that, does this have a correlation with future professional success? You could assume scoring that many points would, barring major injury, guarantee success at the college and the NBA level. But let’s take a closer look.
The last player to score 92 points the 21st century was Henry Uhegwu in 2002, according to this site. Henry went on to play at Southern Utah, averaging 13 PPG on 47% shooting (43% from deep) in his lone season. I decided to dig further and went to the players who scored in the triple digits in the 21st century.
Dajuan Wagner, 2001. Cedrick Hensley, 2001. Dajuan Wagner had 100, Hensley had 101. And they both happened in the same night.
After averaging 43 PPG, breaking the New Jersey scoring record, and playing one year under John Calipari at Memphis, Wagner went on to be the 6th pick in the 2002 NBA draft and played for five years, being dubbed the next Allen Iverson his rookie year. Injuries and a major surgery for his colitis significantly shortened his career. But his rookie year he put up 13 points on 37% shooting (31% from deep).
Cedrick Hensley however, became a different story. After being ranked one of the top power forwards in Texas, Hensley went on to play at Houston. His freshman year he averaged 5.8 PPG on 42% shooting (35% from deep). He never again came close to those averages and finished his career at UH averaging 4.3 PPG and 2.7 RPG. Why those two players went from scoring 100 points in a game in high school, to never again coming close to that potential is a mystery for the ages.
There isn’t a single variable that can be attributed to why high school players who become legends don’t make it in college or the NBA. Sometimes it’s bad work ethic, sometimes it’s injuries, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Lenny Cooke is the most famous example of a kid with all the potential in the world, someone who rivaled LeBron James for the best in the nation, and never made it. In his documentary, he said he had lost confidence, took bad advice, and developed a poor work ethic.
Does Dajuen Wagner, Cedrick Hensley, Lenny Cooke, and Henry Uhegwu mean that LaMelo won’t make it? Or that his 92 points were somehow insignificant? No on both accounts.
LaMelo Ball lives in a different era, an era where college and the NBA is becoming more and more competitive every year. There are more options than ever before for an athlete to succeed. Ball’s brother, Lonzo, currently plays at UCLA and is a consensus top 5 pick and potential National Player of the Year. He too played at Chino Hills, averaging a triple-double and one of the most balanced stat lines I’ve ever seen. Some people have disregarded LaMelo because he is playing at a regular public school as opposed to a prep school. But when he went against Oak Hill, consistently the top high school basketball team in the country, he hung 36 on them.
This is a new age of basketball we are witnessing, and LaMelo is currently the coolest high school player in the country. He will inspire future kids coming up, and whether or not you agree with the way he plays doesn’t matter. Basketball today is focused on high scoring offenses, and LaMelo is a pure scorer. The future of basketball is here, and the James Harden’s and Steph Curry’s of the world have paved the way for the Ball brothers.
Jack Taylor scoring 138 at Grinnell never mattered, the way he got his points was specifically engineered by their coach against insanely less talented teams. LaMelo’s 92 points matter because he it is a testament to his skillset. Their offense is designed to suit his needs. And he isn’t scoring gaudy numbers against 5'6 point guards, he’s getting buckets regardless of who’s in front of him. And at only 15 years old, with a scholarship to UCLA, don’t be surprised if he drops 100 before the season is over.