Last night, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch an AAU game that was centered around a pair of kids who were born post-2000. Never did I think that’s how I would be spending a Wednesday night, but here at Mid-Major Madness, we’re all about going the extra mile to give you the good content that you desire. This game had just about everything you want, unless what you wanted was defense, chest passes, or made free throws.
On one team, you had the Big Baller Brand (yes, that is the actual name of their team) featuring the most talked about man in sports, Lavar Ball, coaching his youngest son, LaMelo, one of the most talked about/criticized high school prospects in America. On the other side, you had the SC Supreme, led by Zion Williamson, whose highlight reel dunks have garnered attention from basketball fans around the world. So much so, that a certain former Degrassi star had a Zion Williamson jersey custom made for him.
If Drake rocking a 16-year-old kid’s high school jersey doesn’t say 2017, then I’m not sure what does.
Ball is a rising junior who is already committed to UCLA, following in the footsteps of his oldest brother Lonzo and his other brother, who everyone forgets exists. Williamson is the No. 2 ranked recruit in the class of 2018. He holds offers from every single powerhouse program in the country, including Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, and, you guessed it, Western Kentucky.
The face-off between the two superstars at an exhibition game in Las Vegas drew a crowd so large that the fire marshal had to be called. Shaquille O’Neal, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Thon Maker, and the face of the BBB himself, Lonzo Ball were all in attendance. The game was broadcast on Facebook Live by Slam Magazine to an audience that reached over 80,000 at one point. Many big-name national college hoops writers were in town and covered the game, including Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander, Jeff Borzello, and Seth Davis. Simply put, this was the most anticipated AAU basketball game in a long time.
Did it live up to the hype? It depends on who you ask.
My grandad played for Kentucky in the early 1950’s under Adolph Rupp. He believes that the sound, fundamental basketball that his teams played with is the only way to play basketball. He also believes that dunks should be worth one point, but that’s another story. I know for a fact that my grandad was in bed at least three hours before this game started, and I also know that it would have made his blood boil. This is why.
John Wooden is rolling over in his grave pic.twitter.com/f3864jzzQ8— Austin Brown (@AustinOBrown) July 27, 2017
This was pretty much how 90 percent of the game looked. Lots of ill-advised shots, sloppy turnovers and transition defense that resembled the Flint Tropics before Ed Monix showed up to save the team.
The Big Ballers did a decent job limiting Williamson’s touches in the first half, but he eventually found his rhythm and dropped a cool 31 points and eight rebounds in the 104-92 win, despite an abysmal performance from the free-throw line. Ball answered the bell with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The most glaring flaw in his game was his propensity to turn the ball over every chance he got. I guess one could say he struggled with...BALL CONTROL. His best assist of the night may have been to Zion for the game-clinching slam.
There’s a part of me that echoes my grandad’s sentiments about the current state of AAU basketball. I could hop up on my soapbox here and talk about how Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony teams would run either of these teams out of the gym with sound fundamental play, but I won’t. Instead I suggest we lean into the skid and go all-out with this new-school style of play. Some rule changes I’d like to see implemented to further this vision include:
- Reduce the shot clock to seven seconds
- Only allow teams a maximum of two (2) passes per possession
- Ban every shot besides dunks and three-pointers
The old guard will hate it at first, but these new rules will do wonders for the social media world.
My final takeaway from last night’s game is that it’s a real shame that Ball and Williamson are a year apart, and we will never get to watch them go head-to-head in college. I could have seen LaMelo developing a rivalry with Williamson similar to the one Lonzo has with Markelle Fultz. The first bout between these two heavyweights was one for the ages, and there will almost certainly be more to come in the NBA in a few years. Until then, I leave you with this, the real highlight of the night.