Teen phenom splashes the NBL cash
LaMelo Ball clearly enjoyed his time with the Illawarra Hawks with the 18-year-old reportedly becoming the new owner of the club overnight.
Ball's manager Jermaine Jackson said the move to own the club where the top NBA draft prospect starred was all but locked in.
"We own the team. It's a done deal," Jackson told ESPN. "Melo loves the Illawarra fans. He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home.
"When high school kids hear LaMelo owns the team, they will want to come. They'll know they will be taken care of. We're going to put the organisation on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for."
No financial details of the deal have been reported.
Ball played 12 games during his stint in the NBL as part of the Next Stars program before bringing his season to an early end after sustaining an injury.
He averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7 assists per game with his standout performances including back-to-back triple doubles. In one contest he exploded for a 32 point triple-double and hit a giant three to force the game into overtime.
"He is going to be locked into his NBA career, but we are going to hire the right people to oversee everything. He wants to create the best basketball program possible for that community there," Jackson said.
Ball had previously donated money to victims of the Australian bushfire and is interested in returning during future NBA offseasons.
"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.
"That's how he was raised by his family. People have a perception of his father, but he has a heart of gold and it trickles down to his kids. His father didn't take him on a traditional route. He started his own sneaker company, Big Baller Brand. We've always talked about ownership. Melo wants kids to think big, especially in times like this."
Jackson, who played parts of five NBA seasons, believes Ball's brand will bring like-minded Americans to his Australian team, rather than college campuses.
"When high school kids hear LaMelo owns the team, they will want to come," Jackson said.
"They'll know they will be taken care of. We're going to put the organisation on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for. I'm in touch with several former NBA GMs that want to go there to help out and high-level coaches that won every championship you can imagine."
Originally published as Teen phenom splashes the NBL cash