The Ball family has been a fixture in the sporting world for three years. LaVar Ball has put all of his sons; Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo in a position to be extremely successful in the family business, basketball. Lonzo was the NBA’s number two overall pick in 2017 by the Los Angeles Lakers after his lone season at UCLA. Two years later, he would be included in a trade to New Orleans for superstar forward Anthony Davis. Lonzo was also the star of his own brand Big Baller Brand (BBB). LiAngelo took over Lonzos’ apartment the following year at UCLA only to be kicked off the team before the start of the season for stealing on a team trip in China. His opportunities have been slim to none after playing for his fathers’ league, the Junior Basketball Association (JBA) as well as playing overseas with younger brother LaMelo for Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) and Baltic Basketball League (BBL).
Then there’s LaMelo. As the youngest of the trio of Ball brother’s, Melo has long been considered to have the most potential in their family business. From a young age, LaMelo played with his brothers on Big Ballers VXT of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Coached by LaVar, Melo would put on a show for fans dazzling them with long range three point shots and flashy passes. Melo’s debut in high school at Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California in 2015, he not only started but put up 27 points including five three pointers in a win. LaMelo finished his freshman campaign averaging 16.4 points and 3.8 assists per game to go along with MaxPreps National Co-Freshman of the Year, MaxPreps Freshman All-American First Team, a 35-0 record and the mythical national championship.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Fast-Forward to 2019. After a 92 point game in his sophomore year, a clash with 2019 NBA number one overall pick Zion Williamson in an AAU game, a trip overseas to play professionally in Europe, returning to the United States for his senior year to play at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, OH you would think LaMelo would be a top prospect for NBA teams. These teams would be looking not only for a boost to their rosters but a boost to their ticket and jersey sales. This was not the case. For whatever reason, in the initial 2020 NBA Mock Draft, Ball was considered to be drafted in the late first round pick to a boarderline lottery pick.
After all of the accolades, tremendous talent as well as the extra media attention, it was a surprise that LaMelo would be projected so low. This is also after a then 13-year-old Ball was compared by USA Today High School Sports as having the ability to “dominate” older competition as reminiscent of LeBron James. Granted the kid grew up into a young man and is a bonafide playmaker in the same respect as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. Ball always passed the eye test with his playmaking ability, what was in question was his maturity and shot selection.
Photo courtesy of USA.com
All that changed when the 18-year-old took the court earlier this week for Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League (NBL), a league based in Australia. Ball impressed most of the 27 NBA scouts at the NBL Blitz — the Australian and New Zealand basketball league’s preseason tournament. LaMelo put up 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists against the league’s defending champion while primarily matching up with reigning defensive player of the year Damian Martin. Ball even garnered a comparison to reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, Luka Dončić. LaMelo is now considered the number three overall pick with room to pass older brother Lonzo for the highest Ball brother drafted in the NBA.
With this past weeks high praise of LaMelo, I can’t help but wonder where the scouts and media had him wrong. This was nothing that people who have followed the teenagers rise weren’t used to. My view on Melo was that he was worthy of a top three projection after his stellar Sophomore season at Chino Hills. In fact, Ball was rated the top player in his class that year. I understand that a scouts job is to objectively look at a prospect and find the needs of the team and organization but for them to just now rave over a prospect that has always preformed at a level higher than someone his age usually puts forth is wild in any regard.
I look forward to seeing the growth of LaMelo throughout his one year rental in Australia. If he continues to impress the head scouts, General Managers and Governors of the NBA, there is no reason why LaMelo Ball’s name shouldn’t be called first on June 25th in Brooklyn, NY. The sky’s the limit for LaMelo as long as he keeps his head down and continues to sharpen his game. LaVar’s master plan to have all of his sons play together for the Lakers may have failed, for now.