April 2, 2020
LaMelo Ball and his manager, Jermaine Jackson, have purchased his Australian NBL team, the Illawarra Hawks.
Despite that meteoric rise as an NBA prospect, Ball has long been considered a basketball phenom. Before going overseas to play for the NBL as part of the league’s Next Stars program, Ball, in 2017 as a high school player for Chino Hills, scored 92 points in a game while committed to UCLA. But his high school career ended early after his father pulled him out of school to play professionally in Lithuania. He spent a season playing in his father’s own professional league, the JBA, before signing with the Hawks last year.
Ball arrived in Australia in August as part of the league’s Next Stars program and established himself as a strong candidate to be the top pick in the draft. The 6-foot-7 point guard averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games with the Hawks, posting back-to-back triple-doubles before a foot injury ended his season.
He is automatically eligible for the 2020 draft, per NBA rules.
Ball enjoyed his time in Australia so much that he decided to make the country a part of his long-term future, especially when financial issues threatened the team.
“Melo loves the Illawarra fans,” Jackson told ESPN. “He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home. When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, ‘Let’s own the team.’
“He is going to be locked into his NBA career, but we are going to hire the right people to oversee everything. He wants to create the best basketball program possible for that community there.”
While we don’t know how much Ball bought the team for yet, there are several reports from recent years about the values of other teams in the league.
Brisbane Bullets were on the market for between $5 million and $10 million, according to Financial Review. Melbourne United was reportedly sold for $10 million.
The entire league, according to Financial Review, sold for $7 million to Larry Kestelman in 2015.