NBA top-pick hopeful LaMelo Ball buys Aussie league team

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 03 2020 08:48 AM

LOS ANGELES - LaMelo Ball, who solidified his 2020 NBA Draft top pick contender status playing for the Illawarra Hawks, has purchased the Australian club, his manager told ESPN on Thursday.

"We own the team," Jermaine Jackson said. "It's a done deal."

Ball went Down Under in August and the point guard averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games with the Hawks before a foot injury ended his National Basketball League season.

The 2019 NBL Rookie of the Year wanted to make Australia part of his long-term plans after enjoying his stay with the Wollongong, New South Wales-based team.

So when Hawks owners Simon and Wendy Stratford posted a message saying they needed more corporate and public support, 18-year-old Ball saw a perfect opportunity.

"Melo loves the Illawarra fans," Jackson, a former NBA and European player, told ESPN. "He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we're at home.

"When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, 'Let's own the team.'"

Ball is working out with brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo in suburban Los Angeles ahead of the draft, an exact date for which is uncertain in the wake of the NBA shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"He's going to be locked into his NBA career, but we are going to hire the right people to oversee everything," Jackson said.

"He wants to create the best basketball program possible for that community... We're going to put the organization on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for."

Ball, who donated a month of his Hawks salary to victims of the Australian bushfires, also plans some visits to Australia when the NBA is not in season.

"When Melo wants to do stuff in the summertime, we'll be there," Jackson said. "We'll take a tour with his family all over Australia, doing basketball camps and connecting with the youth. He wants to inspire the next generation."

The Stratfords said in a team website posting that Ball "will always have a home here at the Hawks."

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