Tuesday night in California, a high school basketball player scored a career-high 92 points in a boys’ game. Sophomore LaMelo Ball of Chino Hills High captured national headlines after his team’s 146-123 win over Los Osos.
Ball, a 6-foot-2 guard, scored 41 points in the eight-minute fourth quarter when he sometimes didn’t cross half-court to play defense with his teammates, a strategy known as “cherry picking.” . For the game, he made 37-of-61 shots, so he was efficient shooting. He scored 63 points in the second half.
But could it happen here?
“No,” said Mike King, the coach of the reigning N.C. 4A state champions from Charlotte Catholic, “because it kills your culture. You try to teach kids that all possessions matter and we’re in this together and all the cliches’ - and that goes against everything that I’ve ever learned as a coach.”
King was bothered that Chino Hills, which is ranked No. 8 in USA Today’s national rankings, appeared to not play much defense in order to get Ball the ball on offense as quickly as possible. He felt Ball was playing outside of the team concept.
After the game, Los Osos coach Dave Smith called it “a joke.” He told the Los Angeles Times that Chino Hills players were intentionally fouling to extend the game - to give Ball, a UCLA recruit, more time to score.
“That’s wrong,” Smith told the Times. “It goes against everything (the California Interscholastic Federation) stands for. The Ball boys are very talented and great players, but it’s embarrassing to high school athletics. I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and we’ve turned high school athletics into individualism.”
Ball’s eldest brother, Lonzo, is a freshman point guard at UCLA and is widely considered a top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft. LiAngelo Ball, a senior at Chino Hills, has also signed with the Bruins.
Back in Charlotte, after watching LaMelo Ball’s highlights on YouTube, Catholic coach King said the individual playing style sends the wrong message to young players.
“It was a me-first attitude, from the clips I saw,” King said. “That’s not how we play, whether we’re up 15 or down 15. There’s a right way to play the game and a wrong way - and cherry-picking, for me, is for the YMCA.”
Here is video from the game:
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