Potential No. 1 NBA draft pick LaMelo Ball and his manager have told outlets that they have purchased the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian NBL.
“We own the team,” Ball’s manager Jermaine Jackson told ESPN. “It’s a done deal.”
However, the league said via a statement that the sale has not been completed. The Australian NBL said it’s working with the current license holder of the team on “a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL.”
However, the league confirmed the discussions about Ball’s interest in Illawarra. They also said it has “final approval of any transfer of license” and that no application for the transfer had been made.
Back in August, Ball arrived in Australia as part of the league’s Next Stars program. However, he quickly established himself as a strong candidate to be the top pick in the draft.
Standing 6-foot-7, the point guard averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games with the Hawks. He also posted back-to-back triple-doubles before an unfortunate foot injury ended his season.
Since he is automatically eligible for the 2020 draft, per NBA rules, Ball is back in the states. He is considered the No. 2-ranked draft prospect by many.
“Melo loves the Illawarra fans,” Jackson told ESPN. “He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home. When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, ‘Let’s own the team.’
“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.”
Ball is in his native Chino Hills, California, preparing for the draft. According to his manager, Ball hopes to use the purchase as an avenue to connect with his many young fans who supported him in his time in Australia.