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The link between Lavar Ball, LiAngelo Ball and the One and Done Rule


Richard Mackson | USA Today

If you cover college basketball like I, and everyone who works at KSR does, you’re forced to have an opinion on a couple different college hoops related topics. Is Duke back or not? Is Bill Self’s hair real or fake? Does Rick Pitino regret his 2013 national championship lower back tattoo?

But above all, there are two topics that you will absolutely, positively end up discussing whether you want to or not. Those two topics: The one and done rule, and America’s favorite basketball dad, Lavar Ball. Believe me when I say that there are no exceptions. These topics will always be hot debate points.

And ironically, over the last two days, those two topics have come together in the most fascinating way possible. Let me explain.

Let’s start with the one and done rule, because for years I’ve heard virtually every media member in the country pick apart the rule and talk about how bad it is. I for one love the rule (as I’ve written before) and think that it’s a good barrier for young basketball players and the pros. Simply put, if you can’t hack it in one year of college basketball, there’s a very, VERY good chance (with a few exceptions) that you’re probably not ready to head off to the NBA. Because of it, I also think having the one and done in place has helped a lot of kids make smarter decisions about their futures. Some still leave college for the pros as soon as they can, and for some, it’s the right decision. But many more get to college and realize they need to stay for two or three years to get things right.

Yet while the one and done has seemingly been a success, it feels like most of the national media disagrees with me. They call the rule un-American. They say it’s unconstitutional. They say that if a player doesn’t want to go to school, and wants to skip college they have every right to (whatever that means).

Therefore I couldn’t help but find it interesting when those same people crushed Lavar Ball on Monday night. By now most of you know what Lavar did to earn their scorn, as he decided to pull his middle son LiAngelo out of UCLA, and get him ready for the NBA Draft. The sad thing is, that Lavar appears to be the only who realizes that LiAngelo (unlike his older brother Lonzo) isn’t actually an NBA prospect. There isn’t a single mock draft on the internet that has him projected as even a second round NBA Draft choice. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that no team in the NBA even has him in their database of players they are tracking.

Of course that tiny fact – you know, that he has no future in the NBA – didn’t stop Lavar from pulling LiAngelo out of school. It also didn’t stop all of the national media for completely ripping Lavar because of it. Virtually every outlet online said that he was “ruining” his son’s future by removing him from UCLA. Just as an example, CBS Sports called Lavar’s actions “sad and detrimental.” (For the record, I like the CBS Sports writer who wrote that line. I respect his opinions on college hoops, even if I disagree).

But while everyone in America was busy ripping Lavar, I’ve got one simple question: How can you be in favor of removing the one and done rule, in favor of kids (regardless of how good they are) having a choice about their future, and the opportunity to go pro out of high school, but also crush Lavar Ball in the process? Didn’t Lavar make the decision that every media member has been demanding more athletes and their families make? To choose basketball over school if that’s what they believe fits them best?

It seems so, and with the news today from Yahoo Sports that Lavar has actually begun looking for a landing spot for LiAngelo overseas, that’s why I’ve decided to write today. Not because I agree with Lavar’s decision (I hate any parent making a decision for their 19-year-old kid), but to tie these two stories together. Because while there is only one Lavar Ball, the media manipulating, larger than life character that is following around by TMZ and CNN, there are a lot of parents across America just like him. And I believe if we remove the one and done rule, there will be a lot of Lavar Ball’s and LiAngelo Ball’s scattered across the basketball landscape. There will be lots of kids who make bad decisions, or parents who push them to do things that aren’t in their best interests.

You know why? Because as I just mentioned, there are a lot of Lavar Ball’s out there. Not parents exactly like him (certainly none that have CNN on speed dial) but plenty who think their kids are better at basketball than they actually are. There are also a lot of adults (parents, AAU coaches, outside influences) who ultimately make decisions for kids which they think are in their own best interests. In the current one and done era, that involves recruiting decisions (think Marques Bolden at Duke), but also the decisions to transfer and in a lot of cases go pro. I can’t tell you how many coaches I talk to who say to me routinely “the kid wanted to stay here, but the parents forced him out.” Now obviously all parents aren’t bad (SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker did a great piece on P.J. Washington’s dad today), but plenty are out of touch. Even if they don’t yell and scream and clamor for the camera like Lavar.

And really that’s my fear for the future of amateur, college and professional basketball. How many Lavar Ball’s are there out there? And how many will make short-term decisions that will impact the rest of a kid’s life? I know that most people think if we remove the one and done rule it will only be handful of kids who go pro, but honestly, I think it will be many, many more. That’s just the culture of basketball these days. There are a lot of kids (and their families) who think they’ll be the exception, the three-star, Top 100 prospect who will make it big in the NBA. History says they won’t.

To give you an example, let me tell you a little story about an AAU event I went to a few summers ago. Hopefully this story hammers home the point, and helps explain why I’ve been so against the removal of the one and done rule. By the way, I told the story earlier today on the debut of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, so I apologize if it gets a tiny bit repetitive here (you can listen to the podcast by clicking here, by the way).

To give you some details, I was at this event a few years ago, and struck up a conversation with the father of a four-star recruit, a kid who is currently a freshman in college basketball (I won’t use the kid’s name because I don’t want to put him out publicly like that). The kid was pretty good, a Top 50 or so recruit, not the type that would ever get a scholarship offer from a Kentucky or Arizona, but instead the next level below (think Purdue, Florida, Wake Forest type school – although that’s not where he ended up). And after the dad and I spoke for a few minutes, I asked him where his son was thinking about going to college.

His answer stunned me.

“We’re trying to go to whatever school can get us to that green room the fastest,” the father said.

First of all, I thought the “we” was a little bit much, if only because, well, I didn’t know the dad was being recruited by any major college basketball programs (sarcasm alert: He wasn’t). More importantly, I was blown away by the undertone of the dad’s comments. He was basically saying that he wanted his son to get to the college that would get him to the pros as fast as possible.

There was just one problem: The pros weren’t seriously looking at him as an NBA prospect then or now. At the time, he was a Top 50 recruit, not even good enough to be named a McDonald’s All-American and things haven’t really changed since. As I mentioned, that kid is currently a freshman at a Power 5 school. He’s averaging a little over eight points per game and isn’t on any mock draft boards for either 2018 or 2019 that I’m aware of. Yet, from before he even started college, his father was looking for the fastest way to get him out of there, even though there’s a chance he won’t ever play in the NBA period.

By the way, did I mention… HE’S AVERAGING EIGHT POINTS A GAME THIS SEASON! AND HIS DAD WANTED HIM OUT OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE?

Again, if you thought Lavar Ball was the only one that thinks the way Lavar Ball does, think again.

And ultimately, that’s the point of this all: Not to say whether Lavar is right or wrong, but for everyone to understand that there are a lot of people out there like him. It’s also for people to understand what’s at stake when the one and done rule is removed.

It sets up a scenario for a lot of kids and the adults they trust to make bad decisions, and potentially put their short-term and long-term futures at risk.

I hope the national media thinks of that, and thinks of Lavar and LiAngelo Ball the next time they clamor for the removal of the one and done rule.

Aaron Torres is covering basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres or e-mail at ATorres00@gmail.com. He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at ATorres00@gmail.com. He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

21 responses to “The link between Lavar Ball, LiAngelo Ball and the One and Done Rule”

  1. UKSupporter76

    I can’t tell if you genuinely buy into this “WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?” line of thinking, or if that’s just the best way you’ve come up with to shill for KSR, but weither way these pieces are getting a bit old. We aren’t talking about children. They are adults. Even if the NBA gets rid of the one and done rule, they wouldn’t be taking 17 year olds. I repeat, they are adults. Lots of adults make lots of bad life choices every day. No amount of rule changes will fix that. LaVar Ball and the thousands like him are going to be bad parents no matter how many rules you make. Did the one and done rule stop Lavar from being a bad parent? Did the one and done rule keep him from making bad decisions on behalf of his kids? You’ve basically presented the perfect counterpoint to your argument and clearly demonstrated that the one and done rule doesn’t do the one thing you think we need it for.

    The funny thing is there are plenty of compelling arguments for the one and done rule, but you’ve yet to even wander into the vicinity of them.

    1. binarysolo

      The one-and-done rule can’t stop a bad parent from, well, bad parenting, but it keeps bad parenting from completely ruining a kid’s future (and yes, 17 year-olds are *kids* not adults). If the one-and-done rule shows this 8ppg kid’s dad that maybe his son’s not ready for the pros, then it did its job. That’s the point of the article.

      Try reading sometime. You might accidentally wander into the point of the article.

  2. chase

    I think many people are against the one and done rule because they want players to stay in school LONGER. The goal isn’t to have 17 yr olds drafted but rather have players stay 2 yrs in college because nearly all of them Need it. I can see you think those that are against one and done feel that way because they think kids shouldn’t have t go to school if they don’t want to but I think you are overlooking a large portion of fans that want two and done or more.
    But I respect your general point: these are impressionable, frontal-lobe-lacking teenagers. And I agree.

  3. rickwhitetx

    These parents are probably the same ones that see their child excel and be the absolute best in youth leagues and believe the offspring will always be the best athlete in the game. What the parent doesn’t want to realize is there are thousands of young athletes all over the country that are just as good as their kid. These parents are delusional.

  4. FlatTopsAndBlockedShots

    Chaundee Brown who attends Wake Forest is the player Torres is referring to incase anyone was wondering.

    1. FlatTopsAndBlockedShots

      JK no it’s not

  5. ukjaybrat

    to be fair, people make stupid decisions that ruin their futures all the time. if someone with an outside shot at the nba “someday” wants to ruin their future by going to early when they aren’t ready, or they want to throw away a free college education because they think they are better than they are. sorry not sorry. that’s a dumb decision THEY made. the parent has no right to pull them out of college. it’s on the “kid.” and i say “kid” because these are 18 year old adults that are allowed to make their own decisions regarding staying in school or not. if their parents pressure them into making the wrong decision, well that’s disgusting, but it’s a life lesson they have to learn the hard way i suppose. I’m a 6’10 white boy with nice moves but no shot. I never had a chance at the nba much less a division 1 scholarship. these kids are already in a better situation than I am which is the opportunity to make millions of dollars “PLAYING A GAME”. So, no. they will get no sympathy from me when it comes to the poor decisions they make. again, sorry not sorry

    1. ukjaybrat

      personally i think there is no good solution to the problem of leaving early or staying late because there will always be exceptions to the rule. would you look at anthony davis and tell him he had to stay 2 years ? what if you did a ranking system and only allowed the top % of players to go after 1? what about devin booker? he most likely wouldn’t have made that list, he didn’t even start. but he’s proven he can hang in the nba.

  6. chrisg18

    Does your opinion change if the NBA creates a legitimate minor league that has the proper support from the league? That has been the chatter all along if the one and done goes away. It may hurt college basketball but kids would still be given a chance to make a living and make it in the NBA.

    1. Sentient Third Eye

      If most of the elite talent leaves college basketball, we already know what that will look like because before one-and-done, that’s how it was. The elite players skipped college entirely. The level of competition was not as spectacular as now, but the games were still plenty entertaining. College basketball will be fine regardless.

  7. Sentient Third Eye

    Whatever Lavar does should not be used an an indicator for typical parents because he is (1) probably at least a little insane and (2) wealthy enough that none of his kids really ever have to work anyway unless they want to. The typical parent of a one-and-done would fit neither of those descriptions.

  8. Ky ski nut

    My only feeling with us and the one and done is when I see Booker or others thinking “I wish we still had him.”

  9. CatFaninNC

    While I get the point of the article, you can’t really take responsibility for protecting people from themselves. I graduated high school and left home when I was 17. I made my own choices and have lived with them.

    The one and done rule is not to protect the “kids” it’s to protect the NBA and give them a free “D-League” as it were. As a byproduct it has helped a lot of kids, and parents I suppose, to realize they weren’t ready for that and provided additional options which is commendable. Like others have said, the one and done rule didn’t make bad parents, they were already bad parents. Removing it won’t help the parents become better parents.

    Kids should be allowed to put their names in the draft out of high school, and if they don’t get drafted, as most of them won’t, they should be allowed to go to school. Like the rest of us.

    1. Sentient Third Eye

      One and Done is what you make it. Coach Cal does a good job of using the system to protect the players. He essentially gives them a one-year crass course on how to survive as a pro athlete. How to handle media, how to manage finances and how to have a healthy pro mentality. It’s essentially a customized one-year associates degree on having a pro career. College and the NBA should use UK as a model and formalize such programs as an actual one or two year major.

  10. makincer

    The idea that things are “at stake” with the removal of the one and done rule is ridiculous.

  11. rabblerabblerabble

    I know, I know…it’s KSR and facts and grammar are optional.

    But c’mon, don’t use an apostrophe to make nouns plural.

  12. Jimmer

    I think the one and done rule is great – for the NBA. It gives them a system in which they can test likely prospects in a more controlled manner than the AAU, at no cost to the NBA! The rule is an insurance policy for NBA scouts, not a a factor of safety to protect young adults from making stupid decisions based on false narratives fed to them from delusional parents. I admit I am torn. I am torn between my fandom for UK basketball and my respect for allowing individuals to pursue their dreams. I think that the rule provides us the opportunity to see some of the best players in the world wear the UK jersey, but it also introduces extreme variability in the roster (not to mention variability in the quality of the product on the court) reducing the emotional connection that fans have with the team.

  13. Wcatfan727

    The only way to fix this and help the kids out is for the NCAA to completely disengage from the NBA and its draft. Why does having your name called out on television by a pr

    1. Wcatfan727

      Pro team disqualify them from playing college basnetball. If they don’t sign a Pro contract they should be able to return to school

    2. Sentient Third Eye

      Why not a system where kids can enter the draft and be selected but choose to defer actually going pro until after graduation if they want? That would protect the interests of the kids more than any other system, plus the NCAA gets elite athletes and the NBA gets their already-drafted talent developed for free.

  14. Swizzle

    Who cares, it the ball idiots. Let’s stop giving him attention.