Welp, it’s official: Australia is Big Baller Brand territory now. LaMelo Ball, the youngest progeny of basketball’s most painful Dad Lavar, is heading to the NBL as part of the league’s vaunted Next Stars program, signing a one-year deal with the Illawarra Hawks.
The 17-year-old Ball is the latest in a line of US high school-age basketballers eschewing the unpaid rigours of the NCAA college system in favour of venturing overseas to play professional basketball, in what’s becoming an increasing rejection of the hugely controversial and deeply corrupt NCAA-system, as well as a subversion of the NBA‘s iffy “one-and-done” draft policy.
That policy stipulates that a player must be at least 12 months removed from high school age before becoming eligible to declare for the NBA Draft. Ordinarily, that meant the best high school players universally opted to spend one year playing for a US college before declaring for the draft. But the insane demands of maintaining a full-time academic schedule while also operating as a de facto full-time athlete, combined with the deeply crook NCAA system of paying athletes $0 despite raking in billions on their names, has resulted in growing unrest among emerging players.
Ball, who was sensationally pulled out of High School in his Junior year to play professional ball in Lithuania, announced his decision to sign with Illawarra on ESPN’s The Jump, declaring his intention to be the overall number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
“I’m trying to be the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft.”
— ESPN (@espn) June 17, 2019
— NBL (@NBL) June 17, 2019
Ball is the 21st ranked player in the current high school recruiting crop. The 5th ranked player in the class, RJ Hampton, previously committed to the Next Stars program by forgoing college in favour of signing with the New Zealand Breakers in late May.
LaMelo Ball is the youngest of three prominent Ball offspring, behind Lonzo – a former #2 overall NBA Draft Pick who just got traded to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the mega-deal which sent Anthony Davis to the LA Lakers – and LiAngelo, who has also played pro-ball in Lithuania.
So there it is mates. Illawarra: The most Baller place in all of Australia now.