LaMelo Ball to play in Australia: ‘I’m trying to be the No. 1 pick’ in NBA draft

From the moment LaVar Ball pulled his son, LaMelo, out of high school to play professionally in Lithuania, it was clear that college was no longer an option for the youngest Ball brother (despite his best efforts to preserve NCAA eligibility).

They eventually came to that realization when schools stayed away from LaMelo during his senior year — even as he thrived as a five-star prospect at SPIRE Institute (Ohio). LaVar had teased a looming decision for LaMelo with China and Australia being the final two options.

On Monday, that decision was made.

LaMelo made a live appearance on ESPN's The Jump to announce that he will play in Australia's NBL as a member of the Illawarra Hawks — a team based in Wollongong.

Rather than stay stateside in the G League or prep school, LaMelo explained that Australia presented him with the best path to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He said:

"I just think it's the best route for me. I'm trying to be the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft. So, I heard they've got great strength and conditioning over there. Off the court gotta be good. On the court, pros have been through there … It's just best for me, I think."

"I'm trying to be the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft."

LaMelo Ball announces on The Jump with @Rachel__Nichols that he will play in Australia's NBL for the Illawarra Hawks next season. pic.twitter.com/G9z4bCl4E5

By going to Australia as a member of the "Next Stars" NBL program, LaMelo is expected to receive a six-figure contract for the one season along with perks like an apartment, car, air travel, and training.

Recently, five-star prospect R.J. Hamption had opted to sign with the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL over a scholarship with Kansas. Per the Next Stars rules, teams can only have one Next Star on its roster, which explains why the two heralded prospects didn't team up.

the question is can we ? @RjHampton14https://t.co/hQf4TGo6wi

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