LaMelo Ball has agreed to a deal with the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL), the 17-year-old guard announced on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday.
On Sunday, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the NBL was aggressively pursuing Ball, a five-star high school prospect, and it seems as though the two parties were able to reach an agreement fairly quickly. Ball will join fellow five-star prospect RJ Hampton in the league’s “Next Stars” program, which offers elite high school prospects an alternative path to the NBA. Ball will make $100,000 for a season overseas.
Here’s what Ball had to say about the decision-making process behind the biggest move of his young career, courtesy of Jonathan Givony of ESPN:
“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 told ESPN. “They have a really strong league, with excellent coaches and great players, including former and future NBA players, and great strength and conditioning programs. My goal is to be the top pick in next year’s Draft and I feel they can help me reach that goal. Also, the timing of the season works well with the timing of next year’s draft.”
Ball said he made the decision to join the NBL before Hampton went public with his decision last month, but the timing of his decision had no bearing on his excitement to play against him:
“I had already decided to play in the NBL prior to RJ’s decision, I just hadn’t yet narrowed down the team,” Ball said. “But having RJ there only 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 against one another.”
The 2019-20 NBL season will tip off in October. For obvious reasons, it will be one worth tuning into.