2016 Selection Show
2016 McDonald's All-American Game
2016 Nike Hoop Summit
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Friday, April 1, 2016
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
There's no need to hold back in saluting the extraordinary accomplishment of Chino Hills' 35-0 basketball season that left fans in a frenzy and opponents in awe.
The Huskies rose up to every challenge and met every expectation. They made basketball fun to play, entertaining to watch and compelling to analyze with their special style of dunks, three-point shots and unselfish passes. There will be a continuing discussion about where the Huskies rank among the greatest teams in Southern California history, but there won't be any debate that their chemistry was second to none.
Even when Chino Hills fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter in Saturday night's CIF Open Division state championship game against Concord De La Salle at Sleep Train Arena, there was no panic. This was not going to be Kentucky vs. Wisconsin. At halftime, still trailing by two points, the Huskies simply turned to their leader, point guard Lonzo Ball, who reminded everyone to settle down and play their style.
The resulting final 16 minutes of a 70-50 victory was pure Chino Hills. There were dunks, no-look passes, steals and just crazy plays that put smiles on the faces of fans and even cynical sportswriters.
Seeing it all unfold was Chino Hills Coach Steve Baik, who placed immeasurable trust in his players.
The first sign of a season to remember came in the summer debut of then-13-year-old LaMelo Ball. Fresh from graduating middle school, he was immediately put into the starting lineup to play alongside brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo and scored 27 points in a 98-51 win over Pasadena Muir last June.
Everyone owes a debt of gratitude to LaVar and Tina Ball. They didn't play the game that lots of parents are playing — holding back kids for sports reasons so they can enter high school a year older and a year stronger than some peers. They wanted LaMelo to play with his brothers and let him rise or fall on his own merits. And what a decision it was.
"It's great to all be playing together and to accomplish this goal together," Lonzo Ball said. "It's what we set out to do at the beginning of the season, and we did it."
Chino Hills was so dominant that in eight playoff games, the closest any opponent came was 20 points. There was a 48-point victory over Santa Ana Mater Dei. The Huskies exceeded 100 points in 18 games this season, tying the state record.
The development of 6-foot-9 freshman Onyeka Okongwu and the play of 6-5 Eli Scott helped pave the way for an unbeaten season. Okongwu's shot-blocking skills were breathtaking in the final month of the season. Scott's rebounding and dunks let everyone know he was a college player in the making.
For me, there are two memories I'll never forget — a pretzel jar and a big yawn.
Sitting at the podium of the Honda Center after the Southern Section Open Division championship game, LaMelo Ball grabbed a large pretzel jar and started eating its contents as reporters waited to ask questions. You could see he really was 14 years old.
And then Saturday night, as thousands of fans waited to see whether Chino Hills could finish an unbeaten season by winning in an NBA arena, LaMelo unleashed a big yawn standing next to his brothers during player introductions. When has anyone so young acted so cool? It was no act. Big games and big moments have become second nature to him, learned from playing in the backyard against his brothers.
Lonzo is moving on to UCLA, but seeing LaMelo grow and mature over the next three years is going to be quite a sight. Chino Hills has four starters back. The winning and the entertaining isn't going to end anytime soon.
Monday, March 28, 2016
At a casual practice in the Huskies’ 1,300-seat gym before their postseason opener on Friday, which they later won, the Balls’ particular personalities were on full display. Lonzo, nursing an injured finger, exuded a senior’s maturity, his motion economized in a low-key scrimmage. The burly LiAngelo, practicing with the intensity of the football player that he once was, jumped up from an interview as the scrimmage wound down and insisted that it continue with him. The wispy LaMelo, a design cut into his two-tone hair, acted every bit the youngster that he is, sprawling in exaggeration as if hurt and pouting when urged to get up.
Before the season, Baik was conflicted on whether to dictate the offense as coaches do or cede considerable control to the Balls. One of his assistants, acquainted with the boys since their childhood, persuasively made the case for allowing them to approximate the unrestrained style of play associated with Amateur Athletic Union teams. They were effective on that level when playing alongside other Huskies, and the approach transferred seamlessly to Baik’s team.
“It was something ingrained in them since when they were young,” Baik said. “They’re just so good at doing it, we’ve just embraced it.”
Court-length passes are welcomed. Long-distance field-goal attempts are not so much tolerated as encouraged. LaMelo claims he has missed from 30 feet only to hear an unexpected command from the bench: Keep shooting.
“These guys are so fearless,” Baik said, “they don’t think a 40-footer is a bad shot.”
Still, Baik imposes himself intermittently. There have been “difficult discussions” with the Balls, he said, when milking the clock to protect a lead was the wiser tactic. In the 1-point win that saw Chino Hills unseat the previous No. 1-ranked team, Florida’s Montverde Academy, in December, impatience caused the Huskies to nearly fritter away a lead of 14 points.
Still, Baik said he is at ease with rolling the ball out and attaching only a few strings to it.
“It’s a simple system,” he said. “It’s a matter of committing to it.”
But it is not for everyone. Baik said that he fields inquiries from other coaches about how to implement the pedal-to-the-metal format, but he tells most of the callers, “You can’t emulate what we do because you don’t have the personnel.”
Meaning, they do not have three fitness fanatics driven by a personal trainer, a 6-foot-6 former football standout, LaVar Ball, who doubles as their father. (The Balls’ 6-foot-tall mother, Tina, is a former college basketball player.)
Near the Balls’ residence is an incline that they call The Hill. The standard workout for the brothers consists of a mile jog on flat ground, followed by six timed sprints up the slope. A typical week contains three days of running and two more lifting weights in the family garage. Some sessions are required even after a strenuous practice under Baik.
“Running is good for you,” LiAngelo said.The brothers maintain that they do not plead for relief at home.
That endurance enables Baik to get by with a short bench. The Balls commonly play start to finish in contested games, even if that means Baik is subjected to complaints about running up scores.
Equally impressive is their instinctive communication on the court. Lonzo has fetched rebounds and, with his back to the Huskies’ basket, blindly flung over-the-head passes downcourt, knowing LiAngelo or LaMelo would be there to receive them.
Directing it all has been Baik, 37, a Pasadena, Calif., native whose rise has been as uncommon as that of Chino Hills High, a 15-year-old public school riding high in a sports realm long dominated by private schools. Baik rarely sees fellow Asian-Americans at coaching clinics, conventions or on opposing benches. As a youngster, he said, he often was told “you are not supposed to be playing basketball” simply because of his ethnicity.
Entering his teens, Baik elected to focus on tennis. But one day, he finished off a forehand and dropped his racket after being struck by the realization that his love for the sport was lacking. He headed directly to a basketball court, and now said he relishes dispensing advice to younger Asian-Americans entering the profession.
“It’s definitely surreal,” he said of the season.
In the team huddle before his team faced Montverde this season, Baik surprised himself by becoming teary-eyed.
“What am I doing here?” he thought. “A little-known school from Chino Hills?”
Then he told the Huskies that they belonged. Two hours later, they had earned the No. 1 ranking. Two months later, everyone knows who they are.