UCLA’s Lonzo Ball part of stellar pack of Pac-12 rookies

Michael Owen Baker / FR171390 AP
UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball leads the Pac-12 with eight assists per game and is scoring 14.7 per contest.

For true basketball fanatics, it might be wise to get your tickets as soon as possible for the Colorado Buffaloes’ showdown Thursday night against No. 4 UCLA.

Chances are, it will be the only time to watch Bruins freshman Lonzo Ball show off his myriad skills in the Centennial State until he comes to the Pepsi Center as part of an NBA franchise.

Granted that may happen as soon as next year, but with only one date against UCLA this season, Thursday’s battle will be the only time in which Colorado basketball fans can witness what likely will be a brief collegiate career for Ball.

“Number one, he’s extremely unselfish,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He’s got great size. He’s got great vision. He shoots the ball well. There’s not a lot of weaknesses in his game from what I’ve seen. He’s a terrific player and does a lot of things for their team. But I think his unselfishness and his ability to get everybody involved is special.”

The 6-foot-6 Ball leads the Pac-12 with eight assists per game and also ranks in the top 15 in a number of other categories, including scoring (14.7, 14th), field goal percentage (.528, 12th), and 3-point percentage (.432, 12th). Even Ball’s rebounding average of 5.6 per game ranks in a tie for 19th in the league.

Freshmen sensations

Ball hardly is the only rookie making big waves so far in the Pac-12.

His teammate, T.J. Leaf, leads the league in field goal percentage (.654) and ranks sixth in rebounding (9.1). Washington’s Markelle Fultz generally is listed as the top pick in most mock 2017 NBA drafts (with Ball second) and is the only player in the league averaging over 20 points per game (22.1). And the Buffs just got a firsthand look at Arizona’s Finish 7-footer Lauri Markkanen who, despite foul trouble, torched CU by going 4-for-5 on 3-pointers with 22 points and six rebounds.

“Markkanen, Ball, Leaf, Fultz, they’re all terrific players and all different players,” Boyle said.

Krystkowiak injured

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak suffered a back injury late in the Utes’ win Saturday at Arizona State and was unable to finish the game. According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, Krystkowiak was helped out of Wells Fargo Arena via a wheelchair but later was seen walking under his own power once the team returned to Salt Lake City.


Cal’s Ivan Rabb on Monday was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. The sophomore forward produced a 20-rebound game against UCLA and knocked down the winning free throws with five seconds left in a win against No. 25 USC.

Pat Rooney: or