With the NBA Draft almost upon us, Lonzo Ball has an opportunity to do something rare: play high school, college, and professional basketball in essentially the same city. Indeed, Ball played high school ball at Chino Hills, he played college ball at UCLA, and he is the likely No. 2 pick in the draft, which would mean playing for the Lakers.
So, who are the Lakers getting if they do indeed invest the second overall pick in Ball?
“He’s a floor general,” UCLA assistant coach Tyus Edney said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He steadies the team, he makes the right plays, he works hard, he plays hard, he’s a guy that you just know is going to give you a great effort every night. He wants to win. He’s ultra-competitive, and he’s focused on winning. I think he’s a little bit of a throwback where he doesn’t care about his points or how he looks. He just cares about how the team is doing and what’s going on on the floor.”
Edney said that Ball isn’t the most vocal player, but rather, “more of a lead-by-example guy.” Thus, if you want someone to get in teammates’ faces and yell, Ball is not your guy.
“He’s a little bit shy, I would say,” Edney said. He’s not going to be the loudest guy in the room. But (to his) teammates, he’s great. I think he was kind of a guy that brought a lot of life to the locker room with his teammates and things like that. I think he got to know everyone right away and you could see the camaraderie amongst his teammates was excellent. That was kind of where he’s more vocal. Obviously he’s taking on the court and things like that. He’s not going to be the guy to yell and go crazy or anything like that on the team, but he’s constantly trying to encourage guys and communicate things that need to be done out there.”
In other words, Ball is steady, positive, and understated. That’s all well and good, but one must wonder if his introverted personality will be a detriment in the NBA, where there is no shortage of alpha males.
“He’s quiet, but he’s not that quiet,” Edney said. “I don’t think he’ll be the guy getting into it and jumping on guys. That’s not really his way. I think his play kind of speaks for itself. If you’re playing with him, you’re going to get the ball, so you’re going to probably be happy. And he likes doing it. He likes passing, he likes getting guys involved, he likes making people look good. I just think that’s his biggest thing: how he is on the floor. I think he’ll just bring the team together. I thought he did a great job of creating a culture for our team this year, and we had and excellent offensive season. That’s what he brings. He’s going to do it on the floor, and I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of complaints from guys in the league.”
Edney believes Ball compares favorably to the other top point-guard prospects in this year’s draft, including Markelle Fultz and De’Aaron Fox, who outscored Ball 39-10 in Kentucky’s Sweet 16 win over UCLA in March.
“Lonzo, he’s about the war, not the battle,” Edney said. “We lost that game because Fox obviously had an unbelievable game, but earlier that year we played them and beat them and Lonzo had a good game. He’s a guy that, I think if you put guys around him, he’s going to raise the level of your team. He plays to win. Not that the other guys don’t, but he’s concerned with what’s going on on the floor and what needs to happen for his team to win.”
In the end, Edney believes that Fultz to Philly and Lonzo to the Lakers would make a lot of sense. Philadelphia would get a scoring guard, which it covets, and Magic Johnson would get the second coming of, well, Magic Johnson.
“I think Magic probably sees a little bit of himself in Lonzo, just by the way he sees the game and things like that and how he gets guys the ball and sees the floor,” Edney said. “So if that is how 1 and 2 go, it kind of makes sense, at least in my eyes.”