4 Apr 2020

Teen basketball star wants to return to Australia

10:02 am on 4 April 2020

American teenage basketball star LaMelo Ball wants to return to Australia as an owner of National Basketball League team the Illawarra Hawks.

LaMelo Ball (right).

LaMelo Ball (right). Photo: Photosport

Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) has denied the struggling Illawarra Hawks club have been sold to teenage NBA prospect LaMelo Ball after the player's manager said it was a "done deal".

The NBL has taken back the licence for the Illawarra Hawks after the club was placed into voluntary administration on Friday.

However, NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said no new owner had been confirmed.

"We will spend the coming weeks establishing a plan and a process to find the next owners of the club. Illawarra is one of the NBL's foundation clubs and we are committed to ensuring its long term viability and success in the League," Kestelman said.

Ball, seen as a potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA draft, had an injury-blighted stint at the Wollongong-based Hawks last year but impressed so much in his 12 games that he won the NBL's rookie-of-the-year award for the 2019/20 season.

Ball's manager Jermaine Jackson told ESPN that he and the player had bought the Illawarra team, which said earlier this week it was looking at different ownership models.

"He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home," Jackson said.

"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 programme possible for that community there."

However, the NBL said no deal had been completed, though it confirmed 18-year-old Ball and his management had expressed interest in having long-term involvement with the team last year.

The Hawks finished bottom of the nine-team NBL in the 2019/20 season.

- Reuters/NBL