Published: Tue, June 18, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

LaMelo Ball joining Illawarra Hawks of Australia's NBL

LaMelo Ball joining Illawarra Hawks of Australia's NBL

The Hawks have 18,300 followers - Ball, a 17 year-old, has 4.5 million.

"I had already chose to play in the NBL prior to RJ's decision, I just hadn't yet narrowed down the team", Ball said.

"My agents did a ton of research on the options I had to play this coming season, and Australia really made sense for me", Ball said to ESPN. So, I heard they've got great strength and conditioning over there. He made the announcement on ESPN's The Jump, telling Rachel Nichols, "I'm trying to be the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft". "Also, the timing of the season works well with the timing of next year's draft". LaVar Ball, LaMelo's outspoken father, previously told reporters that LaMelo was choosing between Australia and China for the next step in his basketball career.

"I am excited to be a part of the NBL's Next Stars program and to join the Illawarra Hawks team", Ball said. Playing in an out-of-the-way locale far from his native Los Angeles won't be anything new for Ball, who spent several months in early 2018 as a member of a team based in a small town in Lithuania.

Ball is the 21st ranked player in the current high school recruiting crop.

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"My experience in Lithuania will help make the adjustment easier", Ball told ESPN.

Brian Bowen became the first NBL Next Star last season, when he played for the Sydney Kings. His contract contains NBA out clauses, allowing him to enter the NBA Draft with minimal resistance when he's ready to do so. In the aftermath, LaVar arranged for both to play professionally in Lithuania.

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That experiment didn't last long, and since then LaMelo has played in the fledgling Junior Basketball Association and at SPIRE Institute, a prep school in Ohio.

"I believe this will be an fantastic opportunity for me as I continue in my journey toward fulfilling my dream of playing in the National Basketball Association".

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