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KU's Bill Self OK with Lavar Ball's Junior Basketball Association as long as academics is addressed

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The father of American basketball players LiAngelo and LaMelo, LaVar Ball attends during the training session at the BC Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas arena in Prienai, Lithuania, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball have signed a one-year contract to play for Lithuanian professional basketball club Prienai - Birstonas Vytautas, in the southern Lithuania town of Prienai, some 110 km (68 miles) from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

The father of American basketball players LiAngelo and LaMelo, LaVar Ball attends during the training session at the BC Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas arena in Prienai, Lithuania, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball have signed a one-year contract to play for Lithuanian professional basketball club Prienai - Birstonas Vytautas, in the southern Lithuania town of Prienai, some 110 km (68 miles) from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis) by Matt Tait

Lavar Ball continues to stay in the public eye with his publicity stunt for his two sons in Lithuania, his Big Baller Brand shoe and apparel line and recent comments about Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton.

But if the pie-in-the-sky dreamer’s proposed Junior Basketball Association is going to get off the ground as an NBA alternative for prep stars wanting to skip college, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self would like to see one rule be an important part of the league.

“If they do that, that’s fine, Lavar, do it,” Self recently told the Journal-World when asked about the potential impact of the JBA on college recruiting. “But make sure (the players) meet NCAA academic requirements or whatever before they can go so at least that way they have options.”

The reason Self believes some kind of academic element — be it a qualifying test score, specific grades or meeting NCAA requirements — is important for the grass roots league is because of the potential dangers of the league, or any other like it, operating without one.

Self said he did not believe the JBA, which is slated to open play this summer, would create issues with college recruiting.

“Could it have an impact? I guess it could,” he said. “But it’s not going to have more of an impact than what the NBA will.”

Right now, with college basketball — and eventually the NBA — being the ultimate goal of young ball players, most of them understand that if they do not take care of their academics throughout junior high and high school, reaching those levels is going to be harder to achieve.

If Ball’s JBA, which would pay as much as $10,000 a month to the top players and a minimum of $3,000 to the rest, operates without any academic guidelines, Self believes young players who otherwise would have been interested in college and the NBA could quickly be blinded by dollar signs and put academics on the back burner for good.

“I’m disappointed in anything that would inspire a 15- and 16-year-old to say, ‘You know what? Man, school’s hard, I know I can just go play pro ball and make money,” Self said. “If you tell a 9th and 10th grader that academics aren’t important and not to worry about Algebra II or Geometry or making grades or meeting NCAA requirements, they’re done before they ever get a chance to change their minds. They could be making academic decisions (that impact) the rest of their lives at age 15 and 16 if they feel like there’s a safety net of, ‘Well, if I don’t make it in the NBA I can go here and make a lot of money.’ That’s not right.”

The JBA logo, featuring Lavar Ball's son, Lonzo Ball, who stars at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The JBA logo, featuring Lavar Ball's son, Lonzo Ball, who stars at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. by Matt Tait

Self said he was not against the idea of the league itself. He just would much prefer that young athletes still value some level of education before developing tunnel vision on playing basketball for money.

While the dream of NBA fame and riches already drives many young players today, nearly all of them know and understand from an early age that performing well in the classroom is a required part of getting there.

“They could still have that future with the important of academics in their minds,” Self said of playing in the JBA. “If you just prepare yourself for it academically and then, at the end of the preparation, you decide, ‘This is best for me,’ I’m fine with that.”

Beyond that, Self said skipping college to go play in a grass roots league to make some quick money could prove detrimental in terms of missing out on valuable life experiences that college provides.

“When they say, ‘This kid doesn’t want to go to college.’ Well, I think there’s a lot of parents of kids who aren’t athletes that make their kids go to college,” Self said. “And then, by the time they’re in college, they say, ‘Hey, I can see why this is important, I can see the future, I can see the positives that come from education.’ And I think it would be the same thing with athletes. “How many players have we coached at Kansas that if they’d have had the opportunity or somebody had told them that a league like this was out there then their commitment to academics would have been altered? More importantly, how many have graduated that, when they got here were thinking, ‘Man, I hate school.’ And then they got here and they realized, ‘Nah, school’s OK. This is fun.’ The social part is a big part of the education, not just taking classes, so...

“The thing that I just despise is for anybody to put something out there that is unproven that doesn’t take the academic interests of a youngster into play. I understand that there are financial difficulties and these sorts of things. But, hey, high school diploma, being able to qualify and go to a university and maybe being the first family member to graduate, all the positive things that come from education; to plant the seeds that those things aren’t meaningful doesn’t sit well with me.”

One thing Self believed could help ensure the JBA is a success on all levels if the NBA’s involvement.

“There’s going to be some changes, I believe, with one-and-dones and how all this ties in from the NBA to the collegiate (game) to the grass roots (leagues),” he said. “And I think the NBA will be on board to help with all this and want to understand what all the problems are with collegiate basketball and grass roots basketball.”

Comments

Phil Leister 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't know why anybody continues to waste ink/bandwidth on Lavar Ball.

Tom Ballew 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree with you in principle, Phil, but the fact is that the clown has an audience beyond sports media, and as long as he does, the sports media will continue covering him.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

What happens to kids who go to the JBL and don't get picked up by an NBA team, how many seasons before the roster piles up and they get 'kicked to the kerb' for some new rookie. No where to go, no education, earning power gone what's next for these guys? I know the biggest mistake I made in my youth was not going to University when I had the opportunity, something I have regretted all my life. To this day I wonder 'what if'? RCJH

[''] 9 months, 2 weeks ago

As Steve Kerr said today, Ball is the Kardashian of basketball -- and they all need to go away...

Suzi Marshall 9 months, 2 weeks ago

From a basketball business. Development and personal perspective, The JBL is a huge mistake for the NBA. If future NBA players/stars, in large part from off-shore and the JBL, risk losing the feed in following of players from college alums.

As for the kids, one can argue persuasively that they should have the right to peruse their interest (/trade or craft) free of unwanted burdens, such as formal schooling. The JBL could be thought of as a trade school. One the other hand, kids need to be educated and making a living feom basketball if you don’t hit the NBA lottery is ... a long shot. Making the education argument is severely undercut by the multi-generational fraud perpetrated by schools like UNC with the support from the NCAA.

Craig Carson 9 months, 2 weeks ago

this idea would never work..the OAD rule doesnt force kids into college..Marvin Bagley for Duke will be a top 3 pick in the next NBA draft, he could have went to Europe, played for a year, made a few million, then entered the NBA draft and still been a top 3 pick.............and he STILL didnt do it...college remains the best choice for kids with NBA aspirations...the NCAA has always been the farm system for the NFL and NBA..only reason why people fuss over it now is because kids these days are too much in a rush to cash out and the pro leagues have adjusted accordingly to protect their product..the NBA is already watered down as it is

Robert Brock 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Stay away from anything to do with this guy. He is a cancer on the game.

Joe Black 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Please stop talking about this guy. If the media would just ignore him, he would fade away into the abyss.

Matt Tait 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This wasn't about him, though. The league, if it becomes a reality, is a real threat to college recruiting and, in my mind, it was worth hearing Self's thoughts on the matter.

Austin Bergstrom 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The best thing Lavar Ball has done in his short but way too long new found fame was his 3 minutes on WWE! Best place for him. Honestly, the only time I've ever been able to tolerate a single word out of his mouth.

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