Basketball: LaMelo Ball, agent purchase Illawarra Hawks ANBL franchise

LaMelo Ball in action with the Illawarra Hawks.
LaMelo Ball in action with the Illawarra Hawks. Photo credit: Getty

NBA prospect LaMelo Ball and agent Jermaine Jackson have reportedly agreed to purchase the Illawarra Hawks Australian NBL franchise.

Ball played 12 games for the Hawks as part of the league's 'Next Stars' programme, averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

He has now turned his attention toward the 2020 NBA draft, where he is expected to be one of the top picks. 

But before the draft comes around, Ball looks set to purchase his former team, after the reported collapse of Simon Stratford's ownership of the club.

Jackson, who played five seasons in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks, told ESPN it was a "done deal". 

RJ Hampton with LaMelo Ball.
RJ Hampton with LaMelo Ball. Photo credit: Getty

"We own the team," said Jackson. "It's a done deal." 

The Hawks have since confirmed Ball and his management had discussions about future involvement during their stay, but no deal was complete. 

"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," said a statement from the Hawks. 
"The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date."

If the deal goes through, Ball and Jackson would be the latest future/current/former NBA players to own a ANBL franchise. 

NZ Breakers owner Matt Walsh heads a consortium that includes former NBA champion Shawn Marion, while 12-year NBA veteran Kevin Martin became the majority owner of the Brisbane Bullets last year.

Australian international Dante Exum has also invested in the South East Melbourne Phoenix, which is owned by former NBA players Zach Randolph, Josh Childress and Al Harrington.

Jackson said a big reason why Ball wanted to purchase the franchise was the way Illawarra community treated him.

"They opened their arms to him," Jackson added. "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 programme possible for that community there."

There are no reports on how much Ball paid for the franchise, but the Bullets reportedly sold between $5-10 million last year. 

Ball's brother, Lonzo, currently plays in the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans.