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.
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LaMelo Ball may spend next season playing in Australia or China
By ADAM ZAGORIALaMelo Ball may spend next season playing in Australia or China before entering the 2020 NBA Draft.
The news was reported in a SLAM Magazine feature on Ball, and confirmed by several other sources.
“Melo will either be in Australia or China unless somehow the NCAA makes a new rule where he could play in college,” one source close to the situation said.
The 6-foot-7 Ball is currently projected as the No. 33 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, per ESPN.com.
After playing professionally in Lithuania and then the Junior Basketball Association, Ball spent last season at Spire Institute in Ohio alongside Michigan State commit Mark “Rocket” Watts and others.
“My dad called me to the hotel room and said, ‘You want to go back to high school?’” he told SLAM. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ I had no clue [that was an option]. I was with the JBA overseas and I was just hooping.”
LaVar Ball pulled his son out of Chino Hills High School and later took him to play professionally in Lithuania with the middle Ball brother, LiAngelo. Between playing overseas and the sales of his Melo Ball 1 shoes, he’s essentially ineligible for college ball, but he doesn’t regret his path.
“The path I took allowed me to go to SPIRE and meet people; that changed my life,” he told SLAM.
At SPIRE, Alan Foster, the Ball’s former business manager who was accused of stealing money from the family, charged (and attempted to charge) various high school events money in exchange for appearances by Ball and SPIRE, as I first reported earlier this year. SPIRE did not appear at several events, including the PSA Cardinals Showcase and the Hoophall Classic (which he asked for $10,000), because Foster asked for money.
Ball does hold several Division I offers at this point, including from LIU-Brooklyn and Alabama A&M, but he’ll now spend next season overseas preparing for the Draft.
“When you got a dude playing for their paycheck, their livelihood and their families, you don’t got anyone playing harder than that,” LaVar told SLAM. “There’s a difference when you’re playing against grown guys.”
Ball said he wanted to play someplace “fast-paced.”
ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz saw LaMelo earlier this season and told me he has a chance down the road to be an NBA player like his oldest brother Lonzo Ball of the Lakers.
“He’s clearly really talented,” Schmitz told me January for Forbes SportsMoney. “Since the last time I saw him in Lithuania, he’s grown. I think he’s probably close to 6-7 now. His passing instincts are really impressive. He’s kind of changed the way he’s played too. In the past, we saw a lot of those 35-foot pull-ups early in the shot clock and I think he’s done a better job of trying to get others involved and really use his passing.
“He’s still kind of an inconsistent shooter and defensively he needs to improve in a big way in terms of his effort. But at his size, his ability to handle and make others better is really instinctual. He just has a lot of talent that’s hard to teach.”
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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.