Lonzo Ball is one of the best players in college basketball, and his father, LaVar, is one of the best talkers.
For NBA teams, Lonzo is a blessing; for NBA teams, LaVar is a curse.
“They would prefer not to have a prospect of Lonzo’s ability whose father can’t wait to get in front of a microphone,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Keep in mind it’s all been positive so far but still frustrating for some. What happens when Lonzo struggles in the NBA or gets benched or is coming off the bench? Now people are putting microphones in LaVar’s face. What’s he going to say then? Is he criticizing a coach, a general manager, Lonzo’s teammates? I do think they’ve got to strike a balance and it’s something that will be addressed.
“But LaVar and his entire family, it’s a fascinating situation – and one that should be more admired than mocked,” Parrish continued. “You’re talking about a two-parent home who kept their kids out of the shoe company factory of basketball players, who raised them and coached them 12 months a year, trained them themselves, mom and dad actually ran the summer program – not dad and some agent or runner for an agent. Played for their local neighborhood high school. Didn’t shop themselves around to basketball factories. Decided to play for UCLA because they wanted to stay close to home.”
Parrish met LaVar a few years ago and was completely blown away.
“When I met him, I was just like, wow’ – because LaVar was talking then exactly like he talks now,” Parrish said. “I’m not sure he hasn’t overstated some things about maybe the other kids, but he was dead right about Lonzo the entire time. He told me he was going to be special, be a one-and-done player, be a lottery pick and turn UCLA into a national championship contender no matter who else was on UCLA’s team at the time.”
No. 3 UCLA (27-3), by the way, finished 15-17 last season.
“They had a losing record last year,” Parrish said, “and it’s not changed only because of Lonzo, but it has changed mostly because of Lonzo. So I will give LaVar credit. He told me people used to think Venus and Serena’s dad is crazy, too, but he actually knew what he was talking about.”
Looking at the NCAA Tournament, Brian Jones wondered what will happen if Middle Tennessee (25-4) fails to win the Conference USA Tournament. Would the Blue Raiders miss the NCAA Tournament, even after beating Michigan State last March?
“The committee is not supposed to consider anything from one year to the next,” Parrish said. “This became a big topic of discussion after Steph Curry led Davidson to the Elite Eight of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. (In 2009), Davidson didn’t get anything done in the non-conference and didn’t have an at-large resume. There was an argument for ‘Who cares? Put Davidson in. It’s Steph Curry. We’ve seen him shoot them to the Elite Eight before. He could maybe do it again. We want that team in the NCAA Tournament.’ The selection committee said, ‘What happened last year happened last year.’ They left Davidson out.”
Many people would rather see an elite mid-major team get a shot in March than the eighth- or ninth-best team from a Power Five conference. Parrish feels the exact same way.
“We kind of know who you are,” Parrish said of those mediocre Power 5 programs. “You can get a handful of top-50 wins but only because you get 11 opportunities to get them. We know what you are. You are somebody who, almost without exception, is going to lose when you play good teams, and when you’re in the NCAA Tournament with he kind of seed you’re gong to get, you’re going to be playing a good team. What we don’t know is how good is Wichita State? How good is Middle Tennessee? How good is Illinois State? If we gave them 15 at-bats the way you get when you’re in the ACC or the Big Ten or the Big East or the Big 12, how many games would they win? Would they be ninth place in the ACC, or would they be third place in the ACC? I’d like to see them just get a shot because the system is rigged against them.”