LaVar Ball, the father of former UCLA star Lonzo Ball, said comments he made about his son’s white teammates were misunderstood.
“I love those guys,”?LaVar Ball said Friday.
Ball was quoted Thursday by the Southern California News Group as saying the Bruins lost to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament because his son injured his hamstring during the game and “realistically you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow.”
Ball attempted to clarify those comments Friday during an interview with ESPNLA 710. “I am not saying I don’t like the white guys and we lost because of them. No — that’s how they twisted it up,” he said.
Ball’s comments appeared to be a reference to UCLA starters TJ Leaf, Thomas Welsh and Bryce Alford, the son of coach Steve Alford.
“I love Bryce because he’s Alford’s son and he’s always been nice to me,” Ball said. “TJ Leaf — Zo’s friend, always nice and respectful. Thomas Welsh — one of their most intelligent players, very nice, respectful.
“But like I said, they’re going to do their thing and we’re going to do our thing. So don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve and think it’s a direct punch at you guys, because it’s not.”
Ball also said he was not blaming Leaf, Welsh and Alford for the loss.
“I blame one person every time they lose and it’s the same person all the time. It’s my son,” Ball said. “He’s at the head of the front and I blame him regardless if he had 30 points and 20 assists. It doesn’t matter. It’s already been said. Like he said, he didn’t make enough plays for his team to win.”
Lonzo Ball will enter the NBA draft and is projected to be chosen with one of the top picks. He finished his final college game with 10 points, 8 assists and 4 turnovers while Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox scored 39. Leaf and Isaac Hamilton?scored 17 points apiece to lead UCLA.
Lonzo Ball downplayed his father’s comments at ESPN’s College Basketball Awards on Friday night in downtown Los Angeles.
“He probably said it as a joke,” he told ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura. “The media is going to do what they do with it, and I’ve heard him say it before so it’s nothing new for me.”
The younger Ball also said such remarks don’t complicate his relationships with his teammates.
“It’s not awkward at all,” he said. “I’m half-white myself. We just laugh it off. All my teammates, we’re tight, we’re cool.”
When reached by ESPN on Friday for response to LaVar Ball’s initial comments, Steve Alford said UCLA will “respectfully decline to comment.”
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf contributed to this report.