LEXINGTON, KY – DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – UCLA’s chances of winning its 12th national title got a lot tougher today after the father of freshman star Lonzo Ball announced his son will skip the NCAA Tournament in order to prepare for June’s NBA Draft.

“Lonzo has proven all he needed to at the college level,” said his father, Lamar Ball. “The goal has always been to eclipse that Steph Curry level, that Michael Jordan level, and it’s not worth risking that future with the chance of getting hurt in some collegiate tournament no one will remember in a few years.”

The 6-foot-6 guard, whose father has claimed is already better than Curry, averaged 14.6 points per game this season for the Bruins — the No. 3 seed in the South region. His decision mirrors those of college football stars Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, who skipped their teams bowl games this season to stay healthy for the NFL. But Ball, who sees himself as a trendsetter, would be the first college basketball player to put his pro future over the Tournament.

“A run to the Final Four would be good for Lonzo’s brand, but this is a team that just failed to win the Pac-12, let alone the entire NCAA Tournament,” the father said. “I don’t want his inferior teammates pulling him down. He is already playing below his level. The next game he plays will be as the star of the Los Angeles Lakers and the next postseason game he plays will be next April as the No. 1 seed in the NBA Western Conference.”

UCLA head coach Steve Alford says he supports Ball’s decision.

“To be honest, it takes a lot of pressure and expectations off of me to win the Tournament,” he said. “Now I can just take a breath and prepare for taking the Indiana job when Tom Crean gets fired this week.”

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