Illawarra Hawks coach Matt Flinn denied speculation that LaMelo Ball could leave the team early to the United States, saying he expects the star guard to play the entire season in the NBL.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's contracted for the season, and he's buying in like every other player we've got," Flinn told reporters Saturday. "I hear speculation, but we just treat it day by day. You saw a guy tonight who is really invested in his team, and if you go down and sit in the locker room, you'll see a kid who is really invested in his teammates."
Flinn's comments came after Ball had 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds while leading the Hawks to a 101-91 win over the Cairns Taipans. While Ball has been sensational during his run with the NBL, it was just Illawarra's second win of the season.
The 2-7 Hawks' struggles to compete at the top of the league has fueled speculation Ball could return to the U.S. to prepare for the 2020 NBA draft. He's given scouts more than enough film to show vast improvement from his high school days and has put himself in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. Ball recently said in an on-court interview he believes he should be the top pick in the draft.
B/R's Jonathan Wasserman has the 6'7" Ball going third in his latest mock draft behind North Carolina's Cole Anthony and Georgia's Anthony Edwards. Anthony and Edwards have both gotten off to strong starts in their collegiate careers and will have the chance to boost (or retain) their stock on a national scale into March.
Scouts will have to travel the entire way across the world to see Ball, which could make an early return to the U.S. at some point make sense. He could work out individually in preparation for predraft workouts that could push the conversation back in his favor for the top pick if no college player establishes himself as a cut above the class.