LaMelo Ball joined the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League, he announced Monday on ESPN, The Jump.
Ball, a 17-year-old playmaker, played for a year in Lithuania in 2018, so he is unlikely to be able to play at university under the eligibility rules of the NCAA.
The NBL has become a destination for players seeking a competitive year of play before they can claim the draft NBA. It's a nine-team league whose game starts in early October and ends in late March. Ball agreed to spend two years with the exit clauses of the NBA.
"My agents did a ton of research on the options I had to play this season and Australia really made sense to me," Ball told ESPN. "They have a very good league, with excellent coaches and excellent players, including past and future NBA players, as well as excellent fitness programs. goal is to be the first pick of next year's draft and I think that they can help me achieve that goal.Also, the schedule of the season works well with the next year's draft schedule. "
Ball, US No. 21 hope of the ESPN 100 promotion in 2019, will join RJ Hampton, American Hope No. 5, as American teenagers who have chosen to spend their time between high school and the NBA in the NBL. Hampton signed with the New Zealand Breakers at the end of May. Both players were included in the NBL's Next Stars program, which emerged as a competitor with college basketball and the G League as gateways to the NBA.
"I had already decided to play in the NBL before RJ's decision, I had not reduced the team yet," Ball said. "But having RJ on the spot just adds to the excitement – I think it will be a good experience for both of us to be there at the same time and to be able to play a one-on-one l & # 39; other. "
LaMelo's brother, Lonzo, was the second pick in the NBA Draft in 2017 and a key part of the Anthony Davis trade between the New Orleans pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers, agreed this weekend.
LaMelo Ball spent four months in Lithuania in early 2018 with BC Vytautas. The ball averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 assists in 13 minutes over eight games in the Lithuanian first division, while he was only 16 years old at the time. His best match of the season was won by Zalgiris, league champion of Lithuania – a team qualified for the Euroleague final four later in the year – with 19 points and 6 assists in 27 minutes .
"I'm really looking forward to playing professionally this season so I can put all my time and energy into basketball," said Ball. "My experience in Lithuania will help facilitate adaptation." Playing abroad at 16 years, professionally, has placed me in a place where I needed to quickly understand things and I think this experience will make all the difference to me in Australia. "
Although no decision was ever made, it was unlikely that Ball would be allowed to play university basketball because of his ties to Vytautas, as he was represented by a agent and that he owned his own line of sneakers, which he was promoting in his image – all things that could violate the NCAA's eligibility rules.
Ball returned to the United States this season to play basketball at high school at Spire Academy in Ohio, where he was coached by former NBA player Jermaine Jackson. Jackson, who has played 130 games in five seasons in the NBA and abroad, will accompany Ball in Australia to help him in his transition.
"Having JJ with me has been amazing," said Ball. "Her experience, advice and mentorship have been a huge benefit to me, and her move to Australia will only contribute to my development on and off the field."
According to the ESPN recruiters' rankings, Ball was ranked # 7 in his high school class when his father, LaVar, abruptly pulled him out of Chino Hills high school shortly after his 16th birthday. Ball was hired at UCLA at the time. LaVar's extrajudicial actions, including the creation of his own sneaker business, the basketball league and a Facebook reality show, have garnered considerable worldwide attention, helping LaMelo to create an Worldwide audience including 4.5 million subscribers on Instagram. From a marketing perspective, Ball's signature is a boon to the NBL, which currently has 78,000 followers on Instagram.
Ball will join one of the smaller teams in the Australian market. The Hawks play in Wollongong, a 300,000-strong working town located 55 miles south of Sydney. The team finished last season tied for sixth place in the NBL with the Breakers. The team should be able to give Ball the opportunity to play a big game at both places.
"The conversations with the team really gave me the impression that everything would be fine," Ball said. "I felt that they understood my goals and had a plan for me in terms of growth and development, and I was really excited about their winning goals."
"We could not be happier than LaMelo joining the NBL this season," said Jeremy Loeliger, NBL's general manager, at ESPN. "I think it's a win-win situation for everyone involved, which gives him a fantastic opportunity to play against tough professionals, which I think will do wonders for what will prepare him for his year." NBA rookie have a chance to answer a lot of questions asked by a lot of people – and all that I've seen makes me think that he's going to take a lot by surprise. "
Illawara head coach Matt Flinn echoed this statement: "The Illawarra Hawks have long been developing great young players, many of whom are passionate about great things in Australia, Europe and the NBA. and LaMelo's signature bears witness to this: together we will work hard to achieve its ultimate goal. "
At 6 feet 7 inches, Ball has a unique talent for the NBA's modern game with his excellent size, his creativity, his ball behavior, his passing ability and his great depth of fire. Its thin frame, unorthodox shooting mechanics, casual play style and inconsistent defense efforts will be the main things scouts will want to evaluate in the NBL, known for its physical play, and that will be a daunting challenge for the young player of 17 years. , who does not have much experience with higher levels of competition.
Ball impressed this summer with his performances at the Drew League, a summer pro-am tournament that draws some of Los Angeles' top talent but is played at an all-star pace. Before this news, Ball was ranked # 33 in ESPN's most recent draft mock-up for 2020, in part because of the uncertainty surrounding his player status for 2019-20. It will be screened as a first-round pick in the next ESPN forecast released after the NBA draft of 2019, Thursday.