Dude, Can You Even Do the Eight-Clap?

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Ahead of the first game of the season on Friday, the UCLA men’s basketball team invited The Players’ Tribune to visit with three of the Bruins’ incoming freshmen — Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu — who all hail from Southern California. Below is their wide-ranging scouting report on themselves — as well as a few digressions on movies, selfies, Taylor Swift and a reported sighting of the Hulk.


Lonzo Ball
Everybody else has been scouting our team, so I was thinking, Why don’t we just do our own scouting report?

Ike Anigbogu
We should start with each other’s public speaking skills. We basically all first met in our public-speaking class this summer.

T.J. Leaf
I like that idea.

Lonzo Ball
Well, I’d say T.J. was probably the clearest speaker. He started out quiet, but he was very well prepared. He surprised everyone.

T.J. Leaf
Like my game!

Ike Anigbogu
But you literally said um after every sentence.

T.J. Leaf
I did have an um problem.

Ike Anigbogu
Zo was probably the most natural. Always providing tips for us.

T.J. Leaf
What were those tips again, professor?

Lonzo Ball
I don’t know about ya’ll, but those speeches were pretty easy for me … I took a speech class in high school. The key is, you gotta pace yourself. You gotta have good posture and you can’t be just standing there in one spot. You gotta move around. And as long as you sound like you know what you are talking about, then people will go with it.

Ike Anigbogu
Fake it ‘till you make it?

Lonzo Ball
Like I said, I don’t think you should overdo it. Act natural.

T.J. Leaf
You had your hands in your pockets the whole time!

Lonzo Ball
Not saying I’m a pro, but I didn’t use notes. I’m looking at you, Ike.

T.J. Leaf
Haha. The teacher called Ike out for using notes! He was like, “No, this time why don’t you try not to look down at your paper?”

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It's up to us to bring the tradition back.

Lonzo Ball

Ike Anigbogu
O.K. No, no, no. Listen … my speech was going fine, but you two were throwing me off, making jokes, laughing and throwing up hand signs … so like I was like, Aw, man….

Lonzo Ball
Your speech about the movie was really good, though.

T.J. Leaf
Yeah. Which one was it again?

Ike Anigbogu
Edward Scissorhands.

Lonzo Ball
That’s classic. Other kids picked are picking Gladiator and other movies like that, and Ike picks … Edward Scissorhands? My man’s deep. A little weird, but deep.

T.J. Leaf
It was lit, though. Do the speech right now.

Ike Anigbogu
I’m not going to do the speech. We’re supposed to be scouting ourselves.

Lonzo Ball
This is the scouting report, dude.

T.J. Leaf
Speech, speech, speech!

Ike Anigbogu
The thing about Edward Scissorhands is that it sneaks up on you. It’s set up like an average romance movie, but it’s not your average romance. You get the whole variety of human emotions. It’s not just a girl and a guy who fall in love, it’s a Beauty and the Beast type of thing, where the characters are forced to look beyond just appearances and look inside themselves.

T.J. Leaf
It got deep all of the sudden….

I think you would appreciate an artist by the name of… Taylor Swift. Let me have the aux.

Lonzo Ball
I’m telling you, my man’s deep. All you need to know about Ike is that if you walk into his room, he’ll be listening to waves…

T.J. Leaf
And not like Kanye “Waves” either — like actual sounds of splashing waves.

Ike Anigbogu
And? So?

Lonzo Ball
Yeah, we’ll be at practice and be like, “Ike, what you wanna do tonight?” And he’ll be like, “You know, just sit on the beach … on a towel … just sit there … enjoying the moment….”

Ike Anigbogu
I enjoy the little things in life. You’ve got to be appreciative.

T.J. Leaf
I think you would appreciate an artist by the name of… Taylor Swift. Let me have the aux. This right here is a banger.

[“Wildest Dreams” plays]

Lonzo Ball
Worldwide banger.

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Ike Anigbogu
Can we get back on track?

Lonzo Ball
O.K., let’s do a basketball scouting report. We’re all from around here, from Southern California, so we’ve known of each other for a while. I probably know T.J.’s game the best. We played each other in high school three times.

T.J. Leaf
I lost all three times.

Ike Anigbogu
To be fair, everyone lost to Chino Hills.

Lonzo Ball
I didn’t say it! But to be honest with you, T.J.’s game is very versatile.

Ike Anigbogu
Especially for a big man. I like playing with him because he can get the rebound and push it.

Lonzo Ball
But he thinks he’s got a step-back. He pulled one yesterday in practice … airball.

T.J. Leaf
I got fouled, bro!

Lonzo Ball
Nah, for real, there are a lot of things you have to deal with when guarding T.J. He can post up, he can shoot off the screen, he can handle the ball. If you put a big on him, he can take him out. So I don’t know how teams will deal with his size and his length, along with his athleticism … because — no offense, T.J. — he doesn’t look like he can jump, but he actually has bounce and stuff.

Ike Anigbogu
He’s just… he’s camouflaged, you know?

T.J. Leaf
Camouflaged?

Ike Anigbogu
Camouflaged, yeah. Trust me, it’s a good thing.

T.J. Leaf
What about you, Ike?

Lonzo Ball
Ike’s scouting report is—

T.J. Leaf
Biggest hands on the team—

Ike Anigbogu
Biggest in the world!

T.J. Leaf
Ike is a sleeping giant for sure. He’s a sneaky good blocker. He doesn’t look like he’s gonna block you, but he’s gonna block you.

Lonzo Ball
Ike is only 6′ 8″. He comes out of nowhere.

T.J. Leaf
He’s more like 6′ 9″.

Ike Anigbogu
Yo, I’m 6′ 10″!

Lonzo Ball
His wingspan is like at least 7′ 4″.

T.J. Leaf
His timing is real good, too. Ike is a rebounder, dunker, blocker….

Lonzo can’t walk around campus without 20 people stopping to take selfies with him.

Lonzo Ball
His jumper on the other hand….

Ike Anigbogu
I’m working on my jump shot. I’m working on it.

T.J. Leaf
Honestly, there’s only one rule for scouting Ike: Do not make him mad. Lonzo made him mad … and oh my gosh… it ended with Zo tapping out.

Lonzo Ball
He’s got anger problems, dude! O.K., so this summer we were in the dorms and I threw a pillow at Ike and he started laughing—

Ike Anigbogu
I wasn’t laughing….

Lonzo Ball
So then I threw another pillow at him and he was like, Don’t throw another one. But he was laughing so I was like, Imma throw another one, right? Next thing you know, man picked me up off the floor and had me in a headlock.

T.J. Leaf
Long story short, he tapped out. So basically here are the rules: Don’t get Ike mad. Don’t go in the paint if he’s in there.

Lonzo Ball
And don’t throw pillows at him. Pac-12 teams, are you writing this down?

Ike Anigbogu
I’m a gentle giant. Can we scout someone else now?

T.J. Leaf
Zo’s up.

Ike Anigbogu
The legend himself. This man can’t walk around campus without 20 people stopping to take selfies with him.

 

T.J. Leaf
I know Zo’s game pretty well. The thing for me is: Everyone likes all the fancy plays he does, all the scoring, which is awesome and great. But for me what’s special are the simple plays he does where he gets the ball to you, on time and on-target. Like people don’t really realize how important it is for a point guard to get you the ball right when you need it, right where you need it. His passing is underrated, if that’s possible.

Ike Anigbogu
Yeah, it’s those little things that don’t always show up in the stats.

T.J. Leaf
If I’m being honest, the biggest challenge for Lonzo this year will be adjusting to not having the ball in his hands 24/7.

Lonzo Ball
You’re not gonna believe this, but I never came off a single screen without the ball in high school. Never. I only did on-balls. I always had the rock. At Chino we had zero plays. It was just … run and get buckets.

T.J. Leaf
You know we actually have plays here at UCLA?

Lonzo Ball
I am aware of that … now.

Ike Anigbogu
Zo’s laughing right now, but don’t get it wrong, he’s really competitive. On every single drill in practice he goes hard.

T.J. Leaf
You didn’t always see that because in high school they were blowing every team out by the end of the first quarter.

Lonzo Ball
T.J. knows that personally.

The biggest challenge for Lonzo this year will be adjusting to not having the ball in his hands 24/7.

T.J. Leaf
Sadly. In one game against Chino, I think we were down 40–10 at the end of the first quarter.

Ike Anigbogu
Should I tell the Hulk story?

Lonzo Ball
What Hulk story?

T.J. Leaf
Gotta tell the Hulk story.

Lonzo Ball
There’s no Hulk story.

Ike Anigbogu
Yes there is. So we were playing in Australia this summer. It was our last game and we were down by like six or something and we were just coming off a loss.

T.J. Leaf
So of course, Zo hasn’t lost a game in forever…

Lonzo Ball
Four years straight … what’s that, 100–0?

Ike Anigbogu
Whatever … so that was like the first real game that he’d lost in years. He was not going to come home going 1–2. So we were down six and it was late in the game and we were just messing up and playing bad. Zo brings us all together and … the Hulk came out.

T.J. Leaf
Haha! Yeah, he started shouting, and he was flexin’.

Lonzo Ball
I was not flexin’.

Ike Anigbogu
You were flexin’, man. He makes this weird noise, “Arrgghhhhhhh!” and gives us a big hype-up speech. It was so funny afterwards, but in the moment we all recognized we really needed to pick our stuff up and get this done. It was what a leader should do.

T.J. Leaf
Yep, that’s how it sounded. Arrgghhhhhh.

Lonzo Ball
We won the game though, huh?

T.J. Leaf
Yeah, yeah. We did come back and win. Zo’s definitely showing he can be a leader even as a freshman.

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Lonzo Ball
I know I’m a freshman, but basketball is basketball. I hate losing. In the moment I’m not going to care about who’s an upperclassman or whatever. My dad brought me up like that. He was always very vocal and he taught me to be a leader to my younger brothers. Plus, I’ve been playing point guard my whole life and that’s pretty much the leader on the floor. Coach has been telling me to talk more and take a leadership role. I’m just going to say what I feel is right, regardless of who I am playing with. It’s like LeBron, my favorite player in the world — he says exactly what he needs to say on the court. So yeah, you know, the time came in Australia for me to get on some people and I had to get on them — and we all picked it up and we won.

T.J. Leaf
We’re learning from the upperclassmen, too obviously.

Lonzo Ball
Everybody cool on the team.

Ike Anigbogu
Yeah, really cool.

Lonzo Ball
Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford stand out the most, being the seniors on the team. They’ve been through everything already and they’re helping us along the way. So I credit them for always having our back. But everybody else is cool too.

Ike Anigbogu
One thing the seniors say is: “The season’s way longer than you expect.” They’re helping us focus on taking care of our bodies, getting in the weight room, eating right, that kind of thing.

Lonzo Ball
What about Coach? We gotta scout Coach.

I know I’m a freshman, but basketball is basketball. I hate losing.

T.J. Leaf
Coach is great. He can be loud though.

Ike Anigbogu
Coach gets his point across.

T.J. Leaf
For sure. His favorite word is freaking. If we aren’t going hard in practice, he turns red and he starts saying “freaking.”

Lonzo Ball
Yeah. That’s how you know you’re in trouble.

Ike Anigbogu
Our whole offense is based on making reads, and you know, playing basketball like it’s supposed to be played. Like, just read your man. Coach is trying to encourage that.

Lonzo Ball
Why I respect him so much is he’s not a controlling type of coach. He lets his players do what they do. He lets them rock. From Day One, he wants me to do what I do.

T.J. Leaf
Lets you rock, huh?

Lonzo Ball
Run and get buckets!

Ike Anigbogu
Wasn’t he throwin’ us lobs that one day?

Lonzo Ball
Yeah. The lobs were… not there. I was worried his shoulder might give out. Coach still has a jumper, though. I respect his jimmy.

T.J. Leaf

What’s our Pac-12 scouting report? I don’t know much about the other teams, really.

Lonzo Ball
Honestly, I think you should look at everybody like they are good. Like, take no games off because you never know what could happen. That’s the whole point of March Madness, anyone can win at any time so you always gotta be ready.

Just history, man. We’ve got that advantage. UCLA always got that.

Ike Anigbogu
Alright, time to eat? Anything we left out? Expectations for the year?

Lonzo Ball
Just history, man. We’ve got that advantage. UCLA always got that.

Ike Anigbogu
Kareem, Walton, John Wooden. I remember watching Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.

T.J. Leaf
A ton of history.

Lonzo Ball
Obviously, last year it wasn’t a historic year, but this year a lot of people are counting on us to bring it back. So, you know, it’s up to us to bring the tradition back.

T.J. Leaf
Dude, can you even do the Eight-Clap yet?

Lonzo Ball
I’ll figure it out before our first game. Bet.

Ike Anigbogu
We’ll see, Zo.

T.J. Leaf
You better.

Bruin Walk

When I visited Coach Wooden at his home in Encino, Calif., I sort of expected it would be like the legend himself: Larger than life. Maybe it’d have a full-size basketball court, a statue of Kareem and an Olympic swimming pool. But it was not as I had imagined.

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