National Basketball Association prospect LaMelo Ball heads to Australia

Ross Houston
June 18, 2019

Hawks owner Simon Stratford described Ball, whose older brother Lonzo has most recently played as LA Lakers guard, as an "exceptional talent".

High-profile American basketballer LaMelo Ball is heading to Australia to play with the Illawarra Hawks and hopes the NBL experience will transform him into the top pick in next year's NBA's draft.

"They have a really strong league, with excellent coaches and great players, including former and future National Basketball Association players, and great strength and conditioning programs".

"My goal is to be the top pick in next year's Draft and I feel they can help me reach that goal", Ball told ESPN.

"I am really looking forward to playing professionally this season, so that I can focus all of my time and energy on basketball", Ball said.

"LaMelo is one of the most exciting and talked about young players in the basketball world and he is going to create enormous interest wherever he goes while he's playing here", NBL Chief Executive Jeremy Loeliger said.

"I am excited to be a part of the NBL's Next Stars program and to join the Illawarra Hawks team", Ball said. The 5th ranked player in the class, RJ Hampton, previously committed to the Next Stars program by forgoing college in favour of signing with the New Zealand Breakers in late May. "But having RJ there only adds to the excitement". His contract contains NBA out clauses, allowing him to enter the NBA Draft with minimal resistance when he's ready to do so.

"Pros have been through there and it's just best for me, I think".

LaMelo made a live appearance on ESPN's The Jump to announce that he will play in Australia's NBL as a member of the Illawarra Hawks - a team based in Wollongong.

Brian Bowen became the first NBL Next Star last season, when he played for the Sydney Kings.

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