There was star power and exciting finishes everywhere at the Drew League on Sunday.
UCLA men’s basketball rising redshirt freshman forward Shareef O’Neal, rising sophomore forward Kenneth Nwuba and incoming freshman guard Jake Kyman all played in week nine of the 10-week Drew League regular season. Former Bruin guard Lonzo Ball also made an appearance to watch his younger brother LaMelo Ball play.
O’Neal and Nwuba suited up for Tuff Crowd to face off against Carl Munn division-leading Public Enemy. After a wire-to-wire battle, Public Enemy defeated Tuff Crowd 82-77.
With just under a minute remaining, Tuff Crowd guard Brandon Jennings was whistled for a technical foul. After free throws and a putback by Frank “Nitty” Session, the lead stretched to five, where it would stay until the final buzzer.
Nwuba said it’s easy to let tempers flare and get distracted in close games, which can ruin a possession or even a game.
“There’s a lot of back-and-forth in (Drew) League games,” Nwuba said. “It can get a little crazy – like today – but it’s important to keep your head and do what you have to do to win.”
Half of Public Enemy’s 82 points were scored by Session, the three-time reigning MVP of the Drew League. Session scored 60 points in his team’s win over Optimus on Friday, bringing his weekend total to 101.
O’Neal finished with 13 points, including seven free throws, and Nwuba added three points of his own. Tuff Crowd’s roster was bolstered by the recent addition of former Oregon State guard Gary Payton II, who finished with eight points and four rebounds, as well as Raptors forward Stanley Johnson, who finished with 21 points and five rebounds.
“You’ve got to stay tough against top players,” Nwuba said. “We’re playing against NBA talent going hard out here every week – it makes you better.”
Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell joined Public Enemy earlier in the summer, but he was not in attendance Sunday.
Tuff Crowd is currently tied for sixth in its division, with the top eight teams making the playoffs. The team’s regular season concludes next week against Young Citi, which is tied for the division lead with Public Enemy.
Later in the day, Kyman led CABC So. Cal against the I-Can All-Stars. Fellow freshman swingman Jaime Jaquez Jr. didn’t play with CABC on Sunday because he was in Mexico training with the Mexican national team for the upcoming Pan American Games.
CABC prevailed 91-78, although both teams had already secured playoff spots before Sunday’s game. CABC now sits tied for fourth place in the Louis Merritt division with four other teams heading into the final weekend.
Kyman said he looks forward to the playoffs and the excitement and energy they will bring.
“The playoffs will just make everything better and better,” Kyman said. “The teams, players, games, and it’ll definitely help me prepare for college.”
Kyman finished with seven points and five rebounds and incoming USC forward Max Agbonkpolo added 16 points and seven rebounds en route to CABC So. Cal’s winning effort.
“Going up levels is always a test,” Kyman said. “The Drew really helps test out your skills and force you to adapt to the better competition of pros and high-level college athletes.”
Another high-profile contest took place early Sunday when LaMelo Ball and his team, No Shnacks, faced off against Problems. A win by No Shnacks would have given the team a solo lead atop the Merritt division, breaking a tie with 2018 champions, Redemption.
In a high-scoring affair that saw triple digits broken in regulation, Problems prevailed 111-105 in overtime.
After Ball missed a free throw with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Problems’ Bruce Massey Jr. went coast to coast to tie the game with less than four seconds to spare.
Ball finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the extended effort.