Chino Hills is on the verge of producing three first-round NBA draft picks

Eric Sondheimer
·2 min read

In 2016, when Chino Hills was the talk of Southern California high school basketball, going 35-0 and winning state and section titles, few expected the Huskies to end up with three first-round NBA draft choices. That’s expected to happen on Wednesday when LaMelo Ball and Onyeka Okongwu become lottery picks, like Lonzo Ball.

LaMelo Ball and Okongwu were freshmen on that unbeaten 2016 team. LaMelo's older brother Lonzo was a senior.

“It’s amazing,” said former Huskies coach Steve Baik. “We knew Lonzo was going to be a first-round pick at some point. We knew LaMelo was a phenom being such a skilled kid, but he was 5-10, 120 pounds. It’s amazing he filled into his body. He’s pushing 6-8 and one of the most skilled players in the world.”

As for Okongwu, Baik said, “For me, the potential was always there. They’ve improved in different ways. They both developed physically, and I love how one has developed into his own person. At USC, [Onyeka] was the man. What’s scary about that situation is he was still deferring so much. He’s always a team player, with no selfish bone in his body.”

A banner recognizing Chino Hills' undefeated 2015-16 season hangs in the high school gym.
A banner recognizing Chino Hills' undefeated 2015-16 season hangs in the high school gym. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Baik says he believes LaMelo Ball has proved he's ready for pro basketball.

“He got a bad rap that he wasn’t focused,” Baik said. “I’m happy about how he’s matured. He’s taking his craft seriously.”

Okongwu stayed all four years at Chino Hills and went to USC, but Ball left the high school after his sophomore year. There were stops in Lithuania, Ohio and Australia.

Now the two good friends will be in the spotlight on Wednesday night, and everyone who watched those Chino Hills days will be reminiscing — about the hours waiting in line to get a seat inside packed gyms, the dunks, the crazy shots, and the domination displayed by a public-school team.

“It’s really exciting,” said Baik, who now helps coach a travel ball team. “I’m proud of those guys. Don’t forget about Eli and Gelo.”

Eli Scott plays for Loyola Marymount, and LiAngelo Ball, the third Ball brother, is still trying to catch on with a professional team.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.