LaMelo Ball Rumors: Australia's NBL Pursuing 'Next Stars' Contract Agreement

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2019

BC Prienu Vytautas's LaMelo Ball in action during the Big Baller Brand Challenge friendly tournament match between BC Prienu Vytautas and BC Zalgiris-2 at the BC Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas arena, in Prienai, Lithuania, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, sons of former basketball player LaVar Ball, have signed a one-year contract and play their first match for Lithuanian professional basketball club Prienu Vytautas. (AP Photo/Liusjenas Kulbis)
Liusjenas Kulbis/Associated Press

LaMelo Ball may be taking his talents Down Under. 

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Australia's NBL is "in pursuit" of the 17-year-old phenom with the hopes he will sign a "Next Stars" contract. The program is essentially an alternative to college for those who are looking to play for a year before they are eligible for the NBA draft.

Stein noted the NBL's Illawarra Hawks are a possible destination but explained the "contracts are negotiated with the league rather than individual teams and players are then placed by the league with various franchises."

Ball would not be the only notable name to play in the league.

Jacob Rude of USA Today's Lonzo Wire noted teams have signed Brian Bowen, Terrance Ferguson and RJ Hampton to deals. Hampton, in particular, stands out as a 5-star prospect and the No. 5 overall player in the class of 2019, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

Ball's route to college is already over, as his father, LaVar, acknowledged during a halftime interview at the Big Baller Brand All-American Game. Andrew Joseph of USA Today's For the Win noted as much in April, pointing out the elder Ball said LaMelo would either play in Australia or China.

His collegiate eligibility figured to be a significant issue after he played professionally in Lithuania, had an agent and was involved with Big Baller Brand.

That prevented schools from seriously recruiting him even though he is a 5-star prospect and the No. 3 point guard in the class of 2019, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

Like Hampton, Ball would have the opportunity to get paid and improve his game against professionals before a potential jump to the NBA, where his brother was recently included as part of the trade package going from the Los Angeles Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis.