Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
LaMelo Ball returns to high school in Ohio at Spire Academy
By ADAM ZAGORIALaMelo Ball announced that he will enroll at Spire Academy in Ohio and play baskeball there, and the school says he will be eligible to play despite playing professionaly in Lithuania.
LaMelo, which the school is now listing at 6-foot-7, will join Michigan State-bound guard Mark “Rocket” Watts and uncommitted Class of 2020 forward Isaiah Jackson on the roster. Ball was originally listed as being in the Class of 2019.
“I’m excited to return to school and rejoin my class on the court for my senior year,” Ball told SLAM Magazine. “Playing in international competition was a great experience. I learned and matured so much. I appreciated the JBA experience my dad provided for me. I think it helped my development. I can’t wait to play with my peers.”
“He brings much more than just talent,” Spire program director Justin Brantley told ZAGSBLOG. “He brings international experience, he brings a desire to continue to develop on and off the court and he brings global attention to a program that was already growing and building towards national prominence.”
Asked if Ball would be eligible despite his brief pro career, Brantley said, “We are not in a H.S. association so he is eligible immediately.”
LaMelo is the youngest of LaVar Ball’s three sons. Lonzo Ball currently plays for the L.A. Lakers, while LiAngelo plays for the Junior Ballers of LaVar’s Junior Basketball Association.
Both LaMelo and LiAngelo previously played for BC Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League.
Several sources said the Ball family believes the youngest ball is still college-eligible because they say he didn’t accept payment while playing overseas or in the JBA.
“My understanding is he was never compensated so should still be an amateur,” Brantley said, adding that the NCAA would need to look into the situation.
LaMelo was a junior at Chino Hills (CA) High School who had verbally committed to UCLA when his father pulled him out in October 2017 and said he planned to home school him and train him in basketball.
“It’s good for Melo,” LaVar told the Los Angeles Times then, adding that he had had concerns over new Chino Hills coach Dennis Latimore. “Less distractions. He just needs to focus.”
LaMelo “meticulously designed and inspired” the “MELLO BALL 1” or MB1, which was available for sale on BBB’s website for $395. BBB calls the MB1 “the first signature shoe launched by a high school basketball player.”
That led to concerns over LaMelo’s college eligibility, as Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann detailed.
And that was before he played professionally in Lithuania.
“I’m good with that on the fact that they’re not even looking at it like, OK this father just gave his son a shoe so he can perform better to his liking,” LaVar said after the shoe came out.
“The only thing they’re worried about is the money,” LaVar added. “How you thinking about, not saying that the shoe looks good or nothing like that. The first thing they’re trying to say is how can we make him ineligible? This has never happened before so you don’t even have a rule for it. You’re trying to find one, to say we gotta make him ineligible because he can’t be making money off a shoe.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.