SPIRE welcomes Ball to the team
SPIRE Institute introduced LaMelo Ball on Nov. 9, and Coach Jermaine Jackson said the team will play like the Lakers of the 1980s: “It’s Showtime, baby.”
A billboard popped up near West 3rd Street in Cleveland on Nov. 9, showcasing LaMelo Ball with his arms spread wide similar to the LeBron James’ Nike banner.
In introducing the youngest of his three sons as a member of the SPIRE basketball team in Geneva, father LaVar Ball said he was unaware of the banner.
But — as usual — he didn’t miss an opportunity to make a bold statement.
“Since LeBron left,” LaVar Ball said, “I brought you a Ball boy.”
LaMelo Ball, a 6-foot-7 teenager who dropped out of Chino Hills (Calif.) high school and then played last winter in Lithuania, was unveiled as the newest member of the SPIRE basketball team.
He will attend high school classes at nearby Grand River Academy, and train and play basketball for the SPIRE basketball squad under the tutelage of former NBA player Jermaine Jackson.
“Like Magic Johnson said in the ‘80s, ‘If you look down at your popcorn, you’re going to miss something,’ “Jackson said. “It’s Showtime, baby.”
LaVar Ball said his son will make his season debut for SPIRE on Nov. 10 when the team plays The Hill School in Philadelphia.
LaMelo Ball — whose older brother Lonzo is a second-year pro for the Los Angeles Lakers — donned a Lakers shirt at the news conference at SPIRE. He shot a myriad of high-arcing shots from all around the court as media members gathered for the official announcement of his enrolling at the gargantuan facility just off Interstate 90 in Geneva.
LaMelo Ball was relatively quiet during the news conference, but said he hopes to play college basketball after this year. He mentioned Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State as attractive schools to him.
A big question that has come up is, “Why SPIRE?”
LaVar Ball said he entrusted Alan Foster, whom he referred to as “my brother,” for his guidance in finding a home for LaMelo to play one last year of high school ball.
“My son said he wanted to go back to high school and that experience,” said LaVar Ball, adding that his business ventures don’t leave time to school hunt, but that he trusted Foster with the decision.
Foster found SPIRE.
“What makes SPIRE the best fit is wanting to go to a program that wants you,” Foster said. “They had the enthusiasm, the passion and they received us and know what comes with the Big Baller Brand, the Ball family, and a special generational player.”
Coach Jackson called LaMelo Ball a player who “can make the blind see and the crippled walk.”
“I think he is the best player in the world on the high school level,” Jackson said of LaMelo Ball. “We want to showcase that and put it out to the world . ... We want to create an environment where everyone in the world is watching what we do.”
Ball’s arrival in Ashtabula County brought a smile to the face of Ron Clutter, owner of SPIRE.
“It shows the immediate region the value of SPIRE in the region,” Clutter said. “It’s attractive around the nation and around the world. That’s what we are excited about — bringing people from around the nation to our region.”
SPIRE plays a tough schedule of teams from around the nation, including games against La Lumiere (Ind.), Oak Hill Academy and area teams such as Brush, Lutheran East and St. Edward. With Ball and others in the fold, Clutter said the bar is set high.
“A national championship,” he said. “We aren’t looking at anything less than that.”
LaMelo Ball shows off his new SPIRE basketball uniform along with SPIRE coach Jermaine Jackson on Nov. 10 in Geneva.