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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / September 23.
  • Jaylen Hands Ready to Replace Lonzo Ball as UCLA’s Point Guard

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    PHILADELPHIA — The Lakers won’t be the only team in Los Angeles with a new point guard come this fall.

    Lonzo Ball’s sneakers have to be replaced on the court at UCLA next season, and Steve Alford and company are turning the reins of the offense over to another five-star freshman recruit, Jaylen Hands.

    A San Diego native, Hands was the No. 19 ranked player in ESPN’s top-100 of 2017. Hands was a participant here this week in the Under Armour All-America camp for high school prospects and current college players.

    Of the collegiate player field, Hands was one of just two rising freshmen to get the invite. (Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker was the other.)

    While Hands has been on campus at UCLA since last month and has the opportunity to run with some of his soon to be contemporaries this week, the focus at hand is heading into next season with the Bruins with the best possible chance to succeed.

    “Obviously I want to win as much as we can,” Hands said. “Win a national championship. I’m excited. I’m excited man, I just want to win as much as possible.”

    That was the goal of Hands’ predecessor as well. However, Ball couldn’t deliver college basketball’s ultimate prize before he moved on to the NBA. What Ball did leave behind for Hands, though, were big shoes to fill.

    LaVar Ball — Lonzo and incoming Bruin LiAngelo’s father — wasn’t shy of a microphone or a camera during his eldest son’s run in college. Because of that, a lot of national attention was — and still is — paid to the Ball brothers. The family even has their own sneaker line, Big Baller Brand.

    Despite all of the noise and extracurriculars last season’s UCLA point guard generated, next season’s version isn’t worried about that at all.

    “I’m sure there is pressure,” Hands said of succeeding Ball. “But for me, I just zone it out. Stay in my own lane. Just to do what I can do to push my brand forward, but on top of that, it’s just the team. Win as much as you can, play as hard as possible.”

    Even with Lonzo out the door and donning purple and gold next season, there is still another member of the Ball family in the UCLA locker room. Only this time, there isn’t nearly as much clout surrounding the name.

    LiAngelo, LaVar’s middle son, was a three-star recruit out of Chino Hills High School. He wasn’t ranked in ESPN’s top-100. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, his true position isn’t defined at this point of his career, and he doesn’t possess an elite NBA-level skill like his older brother did with his passing ability.

    Without superstar talent to back up the superstar expectations, the national peanut gallery could declare it open season on LaVar if his middle son doesn’t back up dad’s loud mouth.

    However, as far as Hands sees it, none of that matters. LiAngelo doesn’t carry himself any different than one of the guys on the team just because his brother and father are constantly in the news cycle.

    “We’re really good friends,” Hands said of LiAngelo. “We’re all really good friends. We’re all cool. There’s definitely no animosity towards them (the Ball’s). We’re all a team, we’re all together. I don’t see any animosity or persona from them.”

    With the upcoming season and expectations a few months away, Hands is just worried about leaving his mark on the All-America camp this weekend. The rest will deal with itself when the time comes.

    “I want to make sure everyone knows that Jaylen Hands came to this camp and do what he had to do. I want to leave the impression as a leader, great player, and see where it goes from here,” Hands said.

     

    Photo: Scout.com

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