SPIRE wel­comes Ball to the team

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By John Kampf jkampf@news-her­ald.com @NHPreps on Twit­ter

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.”

JOHN KAMPF — THE NEWS-HER­ALD

LaMelo Ball shows off his new SPIRE bas­ket­ball uni­form along with SPIRE coach Jer­maine Jack­son on Nov. 10 in Geneva.

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