10:06pm: Australia’s National Basketball League issued a statement confirming discussions with Ball and Jackson, but stressing that a sale of the Illawarra Hawks hasn’t been finalized.
“At this point we are continuing to work with current licence holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL,” the league’s statement reads. “The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date. The NBL has no further comment at this stage.”
12:13pm: After playing for Australia’s Illawarra Hawks for most of the 2019/20 season, draft prospect LaMelo Ball – along with manager Jermaine Jackson – has purchased the National Basketball League franchise, per an ESPN report.
“We own the team,” Jackson told ESPN. “It’s a done deal.”
The youngest Ball brother ended up playing in just 12 games for Illawarra, with a foot injury bringing his season to an early end. However, as Jackson explained to ESPN, Ball enjoyed his time in Australia with the Hawks so much that he wanted to get involved when the team faced financial issues.
“Melo loves the Illawarra fans,” Jackson said. “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.'”
Jackson went on to talk about hiring “the right people” to oversee the franchise with the goal of creating an elite basketball program that may appeal to other top high school prospects who are considering following in Ball’s footsteps by playing overseas rather than in the NCAA.
“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 organization 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.”
While Ball won’t be the first NBA player to own a basketball franchise in an international league, the fact that he’s in position to make such an investment before even entering the league is fascinating. At this point, we don’t have specific details on how bad the Hawks’ financial situation was or what the purchase price was for Ball and Jackson.
Ball, who averaged 17.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 7.0 APG in the NBL, with multiple triple-doubles, is viewed as a near-lock to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He’s currently the No. 2 overall prospect on ESPN’s big board.