A line wraps around the block. The Drew League gym fills up to capacity. No Shnacks’ Instagram follower count goes up from 200 to over 6,000 followers with one single post and tag from LaMelo Ball. This is the “Ball Effect.”
The boy with the curls and pointed grin makes his way into the hyped up gym, followed by his entourage, the Ball family. LaMelo’s presence in the gym brings in a reassuring waft of energy that confirms L.A. summer hoops are in session.
The 6’8 point guard made his anticipated debut with the No Shnacks, an Inland Empire camaraderie coached by Gary Clark, bringing I.E.’s talent to Los Angeles.
Coach Clark was introduced to the Ball Family years ago as a basketball camp counselor. It was there that he exchanged numbers with LaMelo’s father, Lavar Ball.
Clark reached out to Lavar a few months before the Drew League started to let him know a roster spot on No Shnacks was available for the young prodigy.
“[Lavar] reached out to me about a month before the league started to let me know Melo was available,” Clark says. “I gave him the date and time for practice [and] Melo was the first player in the gym. The rest is history.”
LaMelo ranks amongst several other current and post-graduate high school athletes to enter the veteran stomping grounds at the Drew League, putting their talents to the test against some of the best that come to compete each year.
“The experience the youngsters get and the bonds they’re developing from playing with this specific group will benefit them for many years to come both on and off the court,” Clark says.
“[The Drew League] is getting you ready for the next level,” LaMelo says.
Clark reminds Ball of one thing while playing at the Drew.
“At this level, guys are bigger, stronger, faster, and they play harder,” he says. “But the talent gap will always be in your favor, just play hard. Guys will be coming for their heads every week and that’s a great experience for the youngsters.”
Ball served buckets in his debut during Week 2, dropping 25 points and 6 assists. Friendly public service reminder for those that continue to doubt: LaMelo is, in fact, worth the hype.
The once overshadowed No Shnacks verified themselves to be an elite team when they made their way to the Drew League semifinals last season. Adding LaMelo’s true point-guard skills—exceptional offensive and defensive strengths, nearly infallible passing abilities, and unselfish decision-making—to the equation, this team has a chance to look at their reflection in the championship trophy by the end of this season.
The overlooked I.E. may not appear to be anointed by the basketball gods, but LaMelo’s unparalleled skills alongside an undeniably talented No Shnacks roster will compete in Watts all summer long until they dismantle everyone’s previous notion of Riverside and who No Shnacks used to be.