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LaMelo Ball

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LaMelo Ball
LaMelo Ball Vytautas.jpg
Ball with Prienai in 2018
No. 1 – Illawarra Hawks
PositionPoint guard
LeagueNBL
Personal information
Born (2001-08-22) August 22, 2001 (age 17)
Chino Hills, California
NationalityAmerican
Listed height6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High school
Playing career2018–present
Career history
2018Prienai
2018Los Angeles Ballers
2019–presentIllawarra Hawks
Career highlights and awards
  • JBA champion (2018)
  • JBA All-Star (2018)

LaMelo LaFrance Ball[1] (born August 22, 2001) is an American professional basketball player for the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League (NBL). A 17-year-old point guard, he played for Chino Hills High School in California and SPIRE Institute in Ohio. He gained national exposure as a freshman, while playing with his brothers: Lonzo, a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, and LiAngelo. His father LaVar grew into a media personality in 2017.

In his first season at Chino Hills, Ball won a state championship and was recognized as one of the top freshmen in the country. As a sophomore, he repeatedly drew national attention, including for a 92-point game. Throughout his high school years, he was ranked among the top players in his class. In 2017, Ball left Chino Hills after his junior year to sign with Lithuanian team Prienai. In the summer of 2018, he joined the Los Angeles Ballers in the Junior Basketball Association (JBA), before returning to high school as a senior with SPIRE. A former UCLA commit, he chose to forgo college amid eligibility concerns and play for the Hawks in Australia.[2]

Ball is considered one of the most publicized high school-aged basketball players, with a signature shoe by his father's company Big Baller Brand and a role on the Facebook Watch reality show Ball in the Family.

Early life

Ball began playing basketball at age four with his brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo. Growing up, the trio played on teams coached by their father LaVar, including Big Ballers VXT of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), where they would continue playing into high school.[3][4][5] During his childhood, Ball mainly played against opponents several years older than him. In a high school summer league game, facing players of ages 16 and 17, he scored 29 points.[6][7] USA Today High School Sports compared Ball's ability to "dominate" older competition as reminiscent of LeBron James.[7] By age 13, he stood 5-foot-7 (1.7 m).[4]

High school career

Freshman

In June 2015, Ball joined Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California, playing for the Huskies basketball team under head coach Steve Baik. He played with his two brothers and cousin Andre Ball.[8] In his debut on June 16, Ball scored 27 points with five three-pointers as a starter against John Muir High School.[9] On March 5, 2016, Ball scored 26 points to help Chino Hills win the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship over Sierra Canyon School.[10] On March 27, he recorded 14 points and five assists in a 70–50 victory over De La Salle High School for the CIF Open Division title. His team closed the season with a perfect 35–0 record and clinched the mythical national championship.[11] High school sports website MaxPreps named Ball, as well as teammate Onyeka Okongwu, National Co-Freshman of the Year. Ball, who averaged 16.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, additionally made the MaxPreps Freshman All-American First Team.[12][13]

Sophomore

As a sophomore, Ball played under first-year head coach Stephan Gilling and with brother LiAngelo Ball and cousin Andre Ball.[14] By December 2016, Ball was averaging more than 30 points per game.[15] In late December, he made a half-court shot two seconds into a game versus Crespi Carmelite High School.[16] The shot received widespread media coverage, including from ESPN, CBS Sports, and Sports Illustrated, and drew praise from NBA player Stephen Curry.[17][18][19][20] Ball lost his first high school game on February 5, 2017, when Oak Hill Academy ended his team's 60-game winning streak.[21] In his subsequent game two days later, Ball made headlines nationally by scoring 92 points in a 146–123 victory over Los Osos High School.[22][23][24] It was the second-highest individual scoring performance in California high school basketball history.[25] Ball was criticized for cherry picking, as he often waited near half court to get an open shot on his next possession instead of trying to prevent the opponent from scoring.[26] In his sophomore season, he averaged 26.7 points and almost 10 assists per game, earning MaxPreps Sophomore All-American Team recognition.[27] On July 27, he competed in a highly anticipated AAU game with his team Big Ballers, facing top recruit Zion Williamson and SC Supreme at the Adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas. Ball scored 31 points, shooting 10-of-27 from the field. According to Adidas, up to 4,000 people, including several NBA players, were in attendance.[28]

Junior

Entering Ball's junior season, his father expressed his disapproval of newly-appointed head coach Dennis Latimore.[29] On October 2, 2017, Ball's father removed him from Chino Hills, opting for homeschooling, because he was dissatisfied with Latimore and the school administration.[30] His father said that he wanted to avoid "distractions" for his son and would personally train him at home.[31] On December 7, 2017, Ball signed with agent Harrison Gaines to play professionally overseas alongside his brother LiAngelo.[32] The decision indicated that he would not play college basketball.[33] In the following days, Gaines offered the brothers to professional teams in various European countries and Japan.[34][35][36][37]

Senior

On November 5, 2018, after spending his junior year playing professionally in Lithuania and part of his senior year on the JBA international tour, Ball joined SPIRE Institute, a prep school in Geneva, Ohio, for his senior season under head coach Jermaine Jackson.[38][39] SPIRE competed outside the jurisdiction of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), allowing Ball to play without concerns over his amateur status.[40] After the announcement, three prestigious high school programs scheduled to face SPIRE, including Oak Hill Academy and La Lumiere School, canceled their match-ups because Ball's professional experience would threaten their eligibility under their state federations.[41] He was also ruled ineligible for the 2019 McDonald's All-American Boys Game due to his professional experience.[42] On November 10, Ball made his season debut, recording 20 points and 10 assists in a 96–86 win over The Hill School.[43] He posted a triple-double of 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists on December 1, in a 102–75 victory over Vermilion High School, to win most valuable player (MVP) of the Vermilion Basketball Tournament.[44][45] In January 2019, SPIRE was removed from the prominent Hoophall Classic tournament, which is streamed on ESPN+, after event organizers did not meet a $10,000 request from a Ball family associate in order for Ball to play.[46] On March 9, Ball was named MVP of the Grind Session tournament after helping his team reach the championship.[47] In the championship game two days later, he recorded 25 points, shooting 5-of-15 from the field, eight rebounds, and six assists, in a 96–94 loss to Bella Vista Private School.[48] On March 31, Ball played in the Big Baller Brand All-American Game, which was organized by his family's company.[49]

Recruiting

Ball verbally committed to play college basketball for UCLA at the age of 13, before starting high school,[50][51] becoming the third of his brothers to commit to the school.[50] Ball, who was also recruited by Virginia and Washington State at the time, said that UCLA was his "dream school."[52] He emerged as a top recruit during his sophomore season in high school. On January 27, 2017, ESPN ranked him as the 16th best player in the 2019 class.[53] Most recruiting services considered him a five-star recruit and one of the top point guards in his class.[54][55] When Ball returned to high school after a professional stint, he remained a five-star recruit.[56]

On August 31, 2017, Big Baller Brand, a sports apparel company launched by Ball's family in 2016, released a signature shoe for Ball called the Melo Ball 1.[57][58] The shoe's release threatened Ball's eligibility under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).[59][60] Ball's father ignored the concerns and considered having his son skip college for that reason.[60] Ball's signing of an agent and his professional experience further imperiled his NCAA eligibility.[40] Despite questions surrounding his eligibility, which discouraged major NCAA Division I programs from recruiting him, he expressed interest in playing college basketball upon his return to high school in November 2018.[56][61] In the following months, Ball explored alternative options to the NCAA, including prep school, the NBA G League, and professional leagues in Australia and China.[62][63][64]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletes
Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight Commit date
LaMelo Ball
PG
Chino Hills, CA SPIRE Institute (OH) 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) 180 lb (82 kg) — 
Recruiting star ratings: ScoutN/A   Rivals:5/5 stars   247Sports:5/5 stars    ESPN:5/5 stars   ESPN grade: 93
Overall recruiting rankings:   247Sports: 22  ESPN: 21
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height and weight.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.

Sources:

  • "2019 Team Ranking". Rivals.com. Retrieved May 21, 2019.

Professional career

Prienai (2018)

On December 11, 2017, Ball signed with Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) and Baltic Basketball League (BBL), along with his brother LiAngelo.[65] Although they both had the option of leaving after a month, they later chose to stay for the remainder of the season.[66] Ball reportedly became the youngest American to ever sign a professional basketball contract.[67] The brothers' move to Lithuania was heavily reported by American sports media.[68][69] On January 9, 2018, Ball made his Prienai debut in the Big Baller Brand Challenge Games, a series of exhibition games created to feature the Ball brothers, recording 10 points and nine assists in a 90–80 win over Žalgiris-2 Kaunas.[70] Four days later, he played his first LKL game versus Lietkabelis Panevėžys, going scoreless in five minutes.[71] Ball scored his first points at the professional level on January 21, when he posted 13 points in a 116–93 loss to Pieno žvaigždės Pasvalys.[72][73] On February 4, he scored a season-high 19 points, with four three-pointers and six assists, in a loss to Žalgiris Kaunas.[74] In a February 26 loss to Wilki Morskie Szczecin at the Big Baller Brand International Tournament, a friendly competition, Ball suffered a leg injury that sidelined him for one month.[75][76] On April 25, he left Prienai with his family, as his father displayed resentment towards the team's head coach Virginijus Šeškus.[77][78] Ball finished the LKL season averaging 6.5 points and 2.4 assists, shooting 26.8 percent from the field, in 12.8 minutes per game.[79]

Los Angeles Ballers (2018)

On May 4, 2018, Ball signed with the Los Angeles Ballers of the Junior Basketball Association (JBA), a new league created by his father as an alternative to college basketball.[80] Entering its inaugural season, the JBA touted Ball as its "marquee player."[81] In his debut on June 21, he posted a triple-double of 40 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and three steals, shooting 15-of-40 from the field, in a 134–124 win over the New York Ballers.[82][83] Ball recorded a season-high 44 points, 13 rebounds, and seven steals in a June 29 defeat to New York, shooting 12-of-35 from the field.[84] In his first three games, he shot 3-of-32 from the three-point line, which was labeled as "extraordinarily awful" by USA Today.[85] On June 26, Ball tallied 34 points, nine rebounds, and 20 assists in a 169–153 win over the Houston Ballers.[86] Through eight regular season games, Ball averaged a triple-double with 39.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 11.5 assists per game, and 3.8 steals per game.[87][88] He was named to the West roster the JBA All-Star Game.[89] In the playoff semifinals versus the New York Ballers, Ball erupted for 55 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists. He posted 34 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists against Seattle Ballers to win the JBA championship.[90] At the end of the season, Ball was among 14 players named to the JBA USA Team, which would face several European teams on an international tour.[91] On October 31, in an exhibition game versus Dzūkija Alytus on the tour, he was ejected after slapping an opposing player during a scuffle.[92] Ball, on November 5, left the JBA tour to return to high school in the United States for his senior season.[38]

Illawarra Hawks (2019–present)

On June 17, 2019, Ball signed a two-year contract with the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League (NBL), a league based in Australia, with NBA out clauses.[93] He joined the Hawks through the NBL Next Stars program, which aims to develop NBA draft prospects from other countries.[94][95] Ball moved to Australia with Jermaine Jackson, his former coach at SPIRE Institute, to help him acclimate.[93]

Player profile

Standing 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m),[96] Ball is considered a relatively tall point guard with a long wingspan.[97] Early in his high school career, he was primarily considered a volume shooter.[98] However, in later years, he became known as a proficient three-point shooter with the ability to make inside shots.[97] Ball frequently attempts long three-pointers, which has drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry.[99] His style of play has been described as "erratic," and he has been criticized for taking too many shots.[100][101] He has been slammed for frequently being uninvolved on the defensive end as well.[100] Virginijus Šeškus, his head coach with Prienai, remarked about LaMelo: "You can't control that little chipmunk. You say, 'Don't shoot 40-footers.' Next thing you know, he's shooting 40-footers."[102]

Personal life

Ball (right) with his father LaVar and brother LiAngelo after an exhibition game in 2018.

Ball is the youngest son of LaVar and Tina Ball, who are both former college basketball players. LaVar, who stands 6-foot-4 (1.98 m), competed with Washington State and then Cal State Los Angeles. Tina, who stands 6-feet (1.8 m), also played with the latter school.[5] Later on, LaVar played professional American football as a tight end for the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football after being loaned from the New York Jets.[103] In 2017, LaVar became a popular sports media personality, primarily for making outlandish remarks about the careers of himself and his sons.[104]

In his high school basketball career, Ball has been regularly featured by national sports media and has also gained significant popularity on social media. On August 22, 2017, his 16th birthday, USA Today High School Sports labeled him as possibly "the most famous 16-year-old basketball star ever."[105] An ESPN article called Ball a "legitimate celebrity" but tagged him as "the most hated high school athlete of all time."[106] Eric Bossi of Rivals.com said, "The LaMelo Ball phenomenon is the closest thing to Justin Bieber on a basketball court," citing both individuals' polarizing nature.[105]

On June 26, 2017, LaMelo, along with Lonzo and LaVar, appeared on a segment of WWE Raw.[107] After his father ripped off his shirt in a confrontation with The Miz on the show, LaMelo yelled, "Beat that nigga ass!"[108] Following the family's appearance, WWE commented on Ball's words in a statement: "The inappropriate language used by a guest during the 'Miz TV' segment was not scripted nor reflects WWE's values."[107]

Ball has a role in the Facebook Watch reality show Ball in the Family, which was launched in August 2017 and documents the lives of his family members.[109][110] The show is produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, which also helped create the reality TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians on E! and Real World on MTV.[111]

Career statistics

Legend
  GP Games played  MPG  Minutes per game  FG%  Field goal percentage
 3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage  RPG  Rebounds per game
 APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game  BPG  Blocks per game
 PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high     Led the league
Denotes seasons in which Ball won a championship
* Led the league

Regular season

Year Team League GP MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2017–18 Prienai LKL 8 12.8 .268 .250 .737 1.1 2.4 0.8 0.1 6.5
2018 Los Angeles Ballers JBA 8 46.0 .408 .138 .799 14.6 11.5* 3.8 1.25 39.6
Career 16 29.4 .338 .194 .768 7.9 7.0 2.3 0.7 23.1

Playoffs

Year Team League GP MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2018† Los Angeles Ballers JBA 3 40 .466 .297 .932 11.7 9.7 3 0.7 41.0
Career 3 40 .466 .297 .932 11.7 9.7 3 0.7 41.0

Sources:[112][113]

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