Lonzo Ball went to UCLA for just this moment. No, not that “one shining moment” CBS is so good at memorializing as it runs down the glory of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament each spring. Instead Ball has been focused on the moment after the tournament: before the paint had even dried on UCLA’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky, Ball told ESPN radio he was gone.
“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball said, and washed his hands of the past, the loss and college.
The fans appreciated Ball too, and none of them thought he was playing Bruins basketball as a sophomore. Despite his awkward shooting style, Ball might be the #1 pick in the NBA draft. The Kentucky loss doesn’t diminish Ball’s prospects either — last year’s #1 pick Ben Simmons’ LSU team didn’t even make the tournament and rejected a bid to the NIT postseason. But Ball’s announcement is seen by many as disrespecting his teammates and the NCAA — could he have waited until at least tomorrow? Maybe soak in the sorrow of the loss together with his teammates, who were fully focused on the NCAA (where some of their careers will terminate)? Ball is a young man in a hurry, so he said see ya. He can always look to a classy predecessor in NBA star Russell Westbrook. Westbrook left UCLA for the NBA after two seasons, but later became the biggest athlete donor in the school’s history. Another difference? Westbrook’s Bruins went to the Final Four in both his seasons.