LaMelo Ball Says Life Will Finally Start When He Enters the NBA

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2020

LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks brings the ball up during their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League in Sydney, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

LaMelo Ball, one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA draft, said he's eager to find out his NBA destination after globetrotting the world over the past few years.

"It's not like you get to the league and then, 'Oh, I made it,'" Ball told ESPN's Tim Keown for a cover story released Thursday. "No—now life's finally started."

The 18-year-old California native played for BC Prienai in Lithuania and the Illawarra Hawks in Australia as he waited to become draft-eligible. He considers himself a "trailblazer" while Matt Flinn, his former coach with the Hawks, thinks a single home will help unlock the 6'7" point guard's true potential.

"One thing about Melo: It seems like he's always had one foot in and one foot out of wherever he's been in life," Flinn told Keown. "From Chino Hills to Lithuania to here—always one foot headed toward the next place. Once he finds his identity and where he wants to stay, the sky's the limit. I know I'd pick him. He's good for business."

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected the Detroit Pistons would select Ball with the second overall pick in his latest mock draft.

"Detroit would likely take him No. 1 if it won the lottery," Wasserman wrote. "The Pistons need his ability to create quality looks for teammates, which seems guaranteed to translate based on his 6'7" size, ball-handling, unteachable vision and playmaking skill."

The 2020 NBA draft lottery is set for Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. After that, Ball will have a better outlook on where he may land to begin his NBA career.

He understands the grind that awaits based on conversations with his brother, New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, during some difficult times while in Lithuania.

"You have no choice but to be a pro. If you don't show up, they're not going to call your phone and say, 'Hey, where are you?' Being a pro is 24/7," Lonzo told LaMelo.

Ball is a unique prospect with the length of a frontcourt player, the all-around skill set of a wing and the playmaking ability of a guard. His outside shooting remains a work in progress after he made only 25 percent of his threes across 12 league games with Illawarra.

He sounds ready to prove himself once he finds a long-term home via the draft, though.