LaMelo Ball Signs 2-Year Contract with Illawarra Hawks of Australian NBL

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2019

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 31: LaMelo Ball smiles after the Big Baller Brand All American Game at the Orleans Arena on March 31, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
Cassy Athena/Getty Images

LaMelo Ball is headed back overseas. 

The 17-year-old announced he has signed with the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian NBL on Monday, a move that ends all thought of him playing college basketball.   

Ball made the comments on ESPN's The Jump, saying his goal is "to be the top pick in next year's draft and I feel they can help me reach that goal," per Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

The brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, LaMelo's prep career has been interesting to say the least.

Originally a UCLA commit, he withdrew from Chino Hills High School before his junior season after his father, LaVar Ball, had a falling out with the team's head coach, Steve Baik. He went to play overseas in Lithuania with Vytautas Prienai–Birstonas and then the Los Angeles Ballers as part of the Junior Basketball Association before coming to Spire Institute for his senior season.

Ball originally wanted to play college basketball, but the path to eligibility seemed treacherous. LaVar Ball said the NCAA was keeping his son out of college to "prove a point."

"It's going to be hard getting 'Melo into a college program because the NCAA wants to prove a point," Ball said on an episode of Ball in the Family. "But I do know for a fact that 'Melo brings a crowd and he wins, so if you can get the guy that can entertain, and win, and put people in the seats, that's what you start your program with."

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"I'm going to let you know the plan now, so everyone can just stop," LaVar said at the Big Baller Brand All-American Game. "In college, I already know what they were about to do. Like, 'We're going to investigate. We're not going to let him play until we let him play. We're not going let you do all that big-mouth talking and then we're going to hold him back and a whole year go by.'

"The G League, I'm not going to let no 28, 29-year-old dudes tee off on him and try to make a name for himself, so he's definitely going overseas."

Ball is ranked at the No. 22 overall player in the 2019 class by 247Sports. While it would likely recoup his value to play somewhere in the United States, there's no real viable option other than the G League. LaMelo could have also taken an extra year of prep school before declaring for the NBA draft in 2020. 

Ball follows fellow 2019 class member RJ Hampton, who signed with the New Zealand Breakers. 

"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 when asked about Hampton, per Givony. "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."