LaMelo Ball Purchases NBL Team

by Jonah Levis

How this Ball brother is drawing talent overseas

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Highly-rated NBA draft prospect LaMelo Ball teamed up with his manager, Jermaine Jackson to purchase his former NBL (Australian National Basketball League) team: the Illawarra Hawks. This news was confirmed on Thursday, April 2nd, with Jackson telling ESPN: “We own the team. It’s a done deal.”

Ball, who turns 19 on August 22 of this year, ranks number 1 on CBS’ mock draft, and number 2 on ESPN’s mock draft after having a stellar one-season stint with Illawarra’s Hawks. Ball’s playstyle consists of excellent court vision and ball handling, a rare 6’8’’ height for a guard, and the ability to score from anywhere on the court. In the 2019-2020 season, Ball averaged 17.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, and 7.0 assists per game through 12 games. These numbers in a professional league have solidified his draft profile and have potentially shined a light on an alternative way to make it to the NBA for top high-school prospects.

While players traditionally attend college and participate in the NCAA, the league has received large amounts of backlash for allegedly taking advantage of young prospects for monetary gain, yet not paying the prospects themselves. Multiple current NBA players have come out with criticisms of how the NCAA generates revenue from players who are not allowed their own marketing rights and are not allowed any salary. In addition, if a player with a promising chance at an NBA career were to suffer a career-ending injury while playing in the NCAA, they would end up missing out on making any profit from their basketball and could even be kicked out of their university, limiting their ability to get a well-paying job.

The strict financial rules and questionable profits of the NCAA, combined with LaMelo Ball’s successful stint in Australia, may begin to lure other top high school prospects to overseas leagues as opposed to college ball. When playing overseas, players are under full professional contracts and are entitled to sufficient wages and marketing rights. Additionally, the competition in leagues such as the NBL is high and can prepare players for the fast pace of professional basketball in the United States just as well as, if not better than, the NCAA.

Continuing in his interview with ESPN, Jackson spoke on Ball’s goals for his newly acquired NBL team: "When high school kids hear LaMelo owns the team, they will want to come. They'll know they will be taken care of. We're going to put the organization on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for. I'm in touch with several former NBA GMs that want to go there to help out and high-level coaches that won every championship you can imagine."