The Evolution of High School Basketball Stars


Over the past decade, high school basketball around the country has gotten more and more popular. From And-1 mixtapes, to a full documentary series based on a single team, it’s safe to say that high school basketball is way more popular than the sports world would have ever thought. Top recruits from all around the country are continuing to gain sudden fame and attention solely based on their skill as basketball players. There are hundreds of high schoolers recruited every year to play basketball at the Division 1 level, and now high schoolers are eligible to go straight to the NBA G-League. Some players are being paid up to $500,000 a year to display their talents to the world. Keep in mind, these players are 18 and 19 years old, and are getting paid six figures. Over the past five years, on average, only 26 players a year out of the top 100 ranked recruits are signed to an NBA contract. The majority of the players play in the G-League. This shows that it is extremely difficult to make it to the NBA, even with being highly touted at such a young age. However, there are also the very few prospects that live up to the hype, and occasionally, a diamond in the rough who becomes an NBA superstar.

The Ball family; Lonzo, LiAngelo, LaMelo, and father LaVar, are by far the most talked about and covered family of high school basketball for the past decade, and possibly ever. The Ball brothers first gained attention when Lonzo, the oldest, slowly became one of the top prospects in the class of 2016 and gained attention for his flashy passing, raw athleticism, and high IQ in relation to others in the game. With Lonzo comes his younger brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo. All three brothers were the stars of the team at Chino Hills High School, in Los Angeles, CA, and would go on to win multiple state championships. LaMelo, the youngest, was the starting point guard for Chino Hills, and was one of the key players to the team. He was a vital piece to their success as an eighth-grader. Yes, a 5-foot-9 13-year-old was tearing up top prospects around the country with ease. Although all three brothers only played one year together, they had arguably the most memorable high school team of all time. All three brothers were committed to UCLA during the rise of their fame, but LiAngelo and LaMelo would eventually decide to pursue the professional route. Lonzo went on to play for the Bruins and would pick up where he left off, and eventually was the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. During the time of the draft, LiAngelo and LaMelo signed with a professional team in Lithuania, with Gelo being 18 and Melo being 16. They instantly became the stars of their team, but they decided that the professional route wasn’t for them. Gelo, graduating high school, had no other option other than to pursue the professional path, but LaMelo decided to return to the states where he would attend a prep school in Ohio, Spire Academy for his senior year of high school. These brothers were all over the place, while still being teenagers, and even began their TV show, “Ball in the Family”, which would show the non-basketball side of the Ball family, including LaVar, the father, who caused the family even more fame, with his ridiculous takes, crazy antics, and extreme confidence in his kids.

In 2019, Melo still had to wait another year to be eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft and decided to try the professional path again and would sign with the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL, in Australia. He played out of mind overseas, and he was a top player in the league, as an 18-year-old, while playing against grown men. Lonzo and Lamelo are both in the NBA, and with Melo being drafted third overall in the 2020 draft, they would become the first brothers to ever be selected as a top-five pick in the draft. Lonzo is currently a solid role player for the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 14.5 ppg, 4.2 RPG, and 5.1 APG, and shooting an impressive 39% from 3-point range, and is looking like he will have a long and successful career as an NBA player.

LaMelo on the other hand, is the ace of the Charlotte Hornets franchise and is the frontrunner or Rookie of the Year, and has already proved to all the doubters that he is capable of becoming a legitimate superstar. He is averaging 15.8 ppg, 6.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, and 38% from behind the arc. He also became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double (19 years, 140 days), and on Jan. 9, he recorded 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in a win versus the Atlanta Hawks. LiAngelo has been bounced around from small G-League contracts over the past two years, but with his skill, he deserves a spot on a professional team somewhere. Seeing a player with the spotlight on them as teenagers succeed in professional sports is rare, but seeing three brothers do it, and with the name they already had, is something that we may never see again.