On Sunday night, Wally Szczerbiak watched a special on LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of UCLA star Lonzo Ball.
Szczerbiak won’t forget it anytime soon.
“First thing he said was, ‘I made sure I married an athletic wife. It’s all about the gene pool,’” the CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “That’s the first thing he said. He said, ‘I’m all about having boys and making athletes and breeding athletes.’ And that’s what he’s done. But the thing about his son, though, Lonzo – his dad is all about his brand and me and how good can (my sons) be and what can they get out of being star athletes. But his son is just the most selfless player, kind of like a Jason Kidd. The guy just elevates everyone’s game on the floor that he’s playing with. That’s what Magic Johnson did. That’s what Jason Kidd (did). That’s what this kid does. He’s a special, special player.
“I don’t agree with poster material saying he’s better than Steph Curry and stuff like that,” Szczerbiak continued, “but this kid has a ton of qualities to be a great player. He’s going to be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft. It seems like he has the mentality to handle all that his dad is throwing at him. My only worry would be for the other two kids if they don’t become as good as Lonzo. Lonzo has set the ball pretty high. I know the other kids are supposed to be pretty good, but if they don’t live up to expectations, that might (be a problem).”
Ball, to his credit, is averaging 14.6 points, 7.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds for UCLA (29-4) and is a lottery-pick lock.
“He’s a 6-6 point guard. The NBA loves that,” Szczerbiak said. “He’s a super athlete. His shot’s a little funky, but it goes in. The way you have to be able to shoot from the three-point line – he has endless range with that shot. And the fact that he also makes people better, that’s what the NBA wants. They want guys that can pass, that can see the floor, that have vision and can elevate the game of everyone out there on the floor. I think he’s going to be a huge addition. I know a team like the Knicks would love to have a guy like that.”
But the NBA will have to wait – at least for a few months. Right now, Ball is focused on leading UCLA to its first national championship since 1995. The Bruins open against No. 14 Kent State (22-13) on Friday at 9:57 p.m. ET.
“I love UCLA,” Szczerbiak said. “I think they’re the most talented team in the country with the guys they got coming off the bench. They have an impact big in (Thomas) Welsh. They have, I think, maybe the best player in the country in Lonzo Ball. My only question with UCLA is Steve Alford is a very good coach, but he’s never been in a Final Four against Hall of Famers that have won national titles. How’s he going to do in that moment? But other than that, UCLA has all the qualities to make a deep, deep run. I have them in my Final Four.”