Backing up his father’s assertions about his game, Ball has played excellently throughout the early stages of the tournament. He led UCLA past Cincinnati on Sunday, finishing with 18 points and nine assists in the win, which moved the Bruins into the Sweet 16, where they will face the No. 2 seeded University of Kentucky.
Leading the nation in assists (7.6 per game), Ball is one of the best players in the college ranks and will likely be a top lottery selection in June’s NBA Draft. Because of his passing ability, Ball is being compared to another former lottery selection in Jason Kidd.
Kidd was selected No. 2 by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1994 NBA Draft after two sensational years at the University of California. The now Milwaukee Bucks coach, led the nation in assists as a sophomore and was also a First Team All-American selection. As a freshman, Kidd averaged 7.7 assists and set a school record with 220 assists, a mark he broke again as a sophomore.
Kidd though, didn’t have the jumper like Ball, who is shooting a stellar 55.6 percent and 42.0 percent from three. At Cal, Kidd shot 47.2 percent and 36.2 percent from three as a sophomore and as a freshman he shot 46.3 percent and 28.6 percent from three. According to former Duke and NBA star Grant Hill, this is the biggest difference between Ball and Kidd, otherwise they are very similar players.
“Jason didn’t have the jump shot at that young of an age,” Hill said on The Dan Patrick Show on Monday. “But I just love [Ball’s] ability to make others better, and he’s the kind of guy that I think guys want to play with. The ball moves, it becomes contagious, they move the ball around and share it, he’s so explosive. He just plays basketball. He just plays basketball the right way. He can dominate a game without scoring. And of course, we know, he can score. We know he’s got great range. He’s a great athlete. He just has a feel. You can tell he didn’t just work out and train and do drills. He played a lot because he has that special quality and just great instincts that you really can’t teach.”
Kidd, who shared co-Rookie of the Year honors with Hill in 1995, is unsure of the similarities between him and Ball. Mainly because, he hasn’t watched enough of Ball to see the comparison. But what Kidd has saw from Ball, albeit just a very small sample size, impressed him.
“I have only watched a half [of an UCLA game], I haven’t watched any of the NCAA [tournament],” Kidd told ClutchPoints at Milwaukee’s shootaround in Portland on Tuesday. “From what I saw in that half, he’s very talented, he sees the game extremely well and he’s a winner. If that’s the comparison, that’s kind of cool.”
Besides the shooting, Ball and Kidd have very similar numbers in college so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues in the NBA. And you never know, perhaps Ball can follow in Kidd’s footsteps and be one of the best passing guards in league history.