American basketball sensation LaMelo Ball has unceremoniously ended his Australian stint, leaving the country without telling his teammates.
- LaMelo Ball left Australia for the US this morning without warning
- The captain of the Illawarra Hawks says he was surprised to discover the team’s star import has left the country
- The owner of the Hawks says he is disappointed that Ball left without saying goodbye
His club, the Illawarra Hawks confirmed the 18-year-old guard had taken a flight home and will continue his rehabilitation from a foot injury, which kept him sidelined since November, in the United States.
Club captain Todd Blanchfield said he was shocked by Ball’s sudden departure, which he learned about when ABC Illawarra contacted him for comment.
“It’s news to me, but [Ball’s camp has] got an agenda they have to take care of,” he said.
“At the end of the day he’s thinking of the bigger picture and has bigger things in mind.
“We were team mates for half the season while he was playing, and we had our ups and downs, but it would have been good to say goodbye.”
Meanwhile, the owner of the Illawarra Hawks has criticised the star’s unannounced departure from the club.
“I’m really disappointed that he didn’t say goodbye to his teammates and his coach,” Simon Stratford told NewsCorp.
“We had some indication via his minder Jermaine Jackson that he wouldn’t stay for the rest of the season.
“We anticipated that he’d leave around February 11, but we never thought he would leave before the Indigenous round this weekend, that is for sure.”
During his 12 games in Australia Ball averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game, and also made NBL history by becoming the youngest player ever to make a triple-double.
His stocks have steadily risen off the back of his performances, elevating him to top NBA draft pick in ESPN’s mock 2020 draft.
“He has taken huge strides as a player this season and there is a lot of interest in him ahead of the NBA Draft in June,” Illawarra Hawks general manager Mat Campbell said.
“He has a very bright future ahead of him and the Hawks are proud to have played a part in that journey.”
Ball is one of the highest profile products of the NBL’s inaugural NextStars program, alongside New Zealand Breakers guard RJ Hampton and the Sydney Kings’ Didi Louzada.
NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger says Ball’s time in the league has been a success for Australian basketball.
“He has shown his undoubted talent, but also developed as a player and a person by spending time in a professional, world class league,” he said.
“We are proud to have played a part in his journey to the NBA and we look forward to maintaining a close association with him as he takes the next steps in his professional career.”