LaMelo Ball Leaves NBL's Illawarra Hawks to Prepare for 2020 NBA Draft

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2020

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2019, file photo, LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks carries the ball up during their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League in Sydney.  LaMelo Ball's bone bruise on his left foot is expected to keep him out of the Illawarra Hawks lineup for the remainder of the National Basketball League season in Australia. The 18-year-old American, who joined Illawarra as part of the NBL's Next Stars program, is expected to be a first-round pick in this year's NBA draft.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

LaMelo Ball's time in the National Basketball League in Australia is over.

The Illawarra Hawks announced Tuesday that the youngest Ball brother will no longer play for the team and returned to the United States so he can prepare for the 2020 NBA draft. Ball has been sidelined with a foot injury and will also use the time to rehabilitate.

Ball played 12 games for the Hawks, averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.67 steals a night while shooting 37.0 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com reported on Jan. 3 that Ball was in a walking boot and on crutches because of a bone bruise he suffered during a December practice. He will not return to the Hawks before their regular-season finale on Feb. 14.

Ball appears set to join his older brother Lonzo, who is the point guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, in the NBA come June.

The younger Ball was No. 1 on Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman's latest NBA draft big board, ahead of other top prospects such as Isaac Okoro, Anthony Edwards and Cole Anthony.

"Any prior concerns about his style and overconfidence faded by the month," Wasserman wrote. "Ball played the right way in Australia, focusing on using his special passing skills, vision and basketball IQ to create quality looks for teammates. Along with his obvious physical development, he's also demonstrated a more mature approach."

Ball is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court and can impact the game in a number of ways. His next official game will be in the NBA.

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