LaMelo Ball to play in Australia's NBL

While Lonzo Ball is on his way from the Los Angeles Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans, younger brother LaMelo Ball is heading across the globe.

The 17-year-old announced on Monday he will sign a 'Next Stars' contract with Illawarra Hawks of Australia's National Basketball League (NBL).

"My agents did a ton of research on the options I had to play this coming season and Australia really made sense for me," Ball told ESPN.

"They have a really strong league, with excellent coaches and great players, including former and future NBA players, and great strength and conditioning programmes.

"My goal is to be the top pick in next year's [NBA] Draft and I feel they can help me reach that goal. Also, the timing of the season works well with the timing of next year's Draft."

NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger said: "We couldn't be more excited to have LaMelo coming to join the NBL this season. I think it's a real win-win situation for everyone involved.

"It gives him a fantastic opportunity to play against some hardened professionals, which I think will do wonders in terms of getting him ready for his rookie year in the NBA.

"He'll get the chance to answer a lot of questions being asked by a lot of people - and everything I've seen makes me think he's going to take a lot of them by surprise."

Ball returned to high school basketball last season at SPIRE Academy in Ohio after a short stint playing professionally in Lithuania.

RJ Hampton, a five-star recruit from in the 2019 class, could be the new model for top high school prospects after he turned down the likes of Duke, Kansas, Memphis and the rest of the NCAA to play professionally for the NBL's New Zealand Breakers.

"I had already decided to play in the NBL prior to RJ's decision, I just hadn't yet narrowed down the team," Ball said. "But having RJ there only adds to the excitement. I think it will be a good experience for both of us to be there at the same time and to be able to play against one another."

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