Athletes by Ariel Pacheco November 19, 2020
After a night full of a range of emotions and intrigue, today begs the question, will 2020 go down as the year of the LaMelo Ball draft?
LaMelo is finally in the NBA after taking one of the most unique paths to the league we’ve ever seen. And to many, he has the most upside of any player chosen last night.
From starring at Chino Hills in high school to now being selected by the Charlotte Hornets as the third overall pick in this year’s draft, LaMelo has grown as a person and player before our eyes.
LaMelo has been a local star since he was a child. Playing with his older brother LiAngelo and Lonzo, his confidence grew and so did his popularity.
He consistently played against older and tougher competition than his age group. By the time LaMelo became a freshman at Chino Hills High School, he was a household name.
In his sophomore year, his popularity only grew further with clips of his game going viral just about every time he played.
He had a bunch of memorable moments including hitting a half-court shot two seconds into a game, scoring 92 points in a game, and a highly-anticipated matchup against Zion Williamson.
LaMelo then became the first high school player ever with his own signature shoe, the “Melo Ball 1’s.” His father, LaVar, pulled him out of Chino Hills and planned to train him at home.
However, LaVar eventually sent LaMelo and LiAngelo to play professionally in Lithuania. That lasted for about four months.
LaMelo’s unique journey brought him back stateside to play in the JBA, a league created by his father that fell apart after just one season. He then tried to get his college eligibility reinstated, but that was denied.
LaMelo instead went to play at Spire Institute in Ohio but faced a lot of difficulties since he was considered a professional after playing overseas. He was not eligible to be a McDonald’s All-American.
After his senior year, he took his talents to Australia to play with the Illawarra Hawks. His play saw him rise to the top of mock drafts all season long. Many argue that he is the most talented player in the 2020 draft class.
He suffered an injury that ended his season in Australia early, but his play was still enough to get him selected third overall by the Hornets.
LaMelo’s journey to the NBA is unprecedented and noteworthy. It signals to other top prospects in the coming years that there are other options outside of the NCAA.
He faced a lot of scrutiny as a teen who never did much to warrant it, and has never failed to live up to the hype his last name brought on him. But the NBA is a new test.
There’s no doubt that LaMelo’s game still has question marks that will be tested in his rookie season, but he will be prepared for it. He has been in the spotlight for basically his entire life and the pressure he’s faced is on a level that very few have ever had to deal with.
LaMelo will get the chance to prove his doubters wrong in Charlotte. And ultimately, if he is as transcendent as many experts believe he will be, 2020 will go down as the year of the LaMelo Ball draft.