“I feel like I’m born for this,” Ball declared before the draft to the media.
LaMelo’s brother, Lonzo Ball, was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the second pick in the 2017 draft. They become the first brothers in NBA history to be drafted in the Top 5.
The entire Ball family was excited to see another member be a high draft pick in the sport they have largely invested in since they were children.
“ It was beautiful, LaMelo Ball said about celebrating with his family. “It was all downstairs in the room. The whole room was crying. I couldn’t even tell you how many people there were. But when they called my name, everybody was cheering, excited. It was a beautiful scene.”
LaMelo Ball’s journey to the NBA started after a dispute at Chino Hills High School, in large part due to his father’s disapproval of the coach. LaVar Ball helped LaMelo get an agent and the basketball phenom signed with Lithuanian professional basketball team Prienai. In the Lithuanian Basketball League, he played alongside his brother, LiAngelo, in 2017.
He also joined the Junior Basketball Association, a league created by his father, in 2018. Then for a short while, he also played for the SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio for his senior year of high school. At a young age, Ball had verbally committed to UCLA, but that arrangement didn’t materialize.
Ball spent his 2019-20 season with Australia’s Illawarra Hawks team managing an average of 17 points, 6.8 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per game. He proved to be one of the best players in the Australian league. His scoring prowess helped him finish 17th in the NBL last season in scoring, although he only played in 12 games. The reason for short playing time came because of a bruised foot but he did earn NBL Rookie of the Year honors.
His accolades in Australia consist of being the youngest player in NBL history to record a triple-double, notching up 32 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Then a week later he did the same by tallying 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Before heading to the land down under, Ball played in the Drew League to tighten up before heading over to Australia. He played several games with No Shnacks before his time at the Drew League ended with a defeat in the playoffs.
In that loss, Ball scored 24 points to help spur No Shnacks to a 24-point comeback to force overtime in a game played last August. To get to overtime, Ball summoned his inner Reggie Miller by scoring 11 points in the final 45 seconds. From the Drew League to the NBA, that’s pretty amazing stuff. Ball will now be playing for Michael Jordan, owner of the Hornets and arguably the greatest player in NBA history.
“Man, straight blessing, for real,” Ball said. “I don’t even have enough words to say. I’m just blessed right now, for real.”
In regards to finally playing in the biggest basketball league in the world, Ball is in high spirits to get onto the court.
“I’m definitely excited,” Ball said. “I’ve been seeing [the Hornets core] since I was young. I saw Miles Bridges at Michigan State and played against PJ Washington [in high school]. It’s going to be exciting. They’re high flyers and we have a young team. I feel like it’s going to be nice. I love to get up and down [the court]. If that’s the playstyle, it definitely fits.”
LaMelo Ball and Washington crossed paths before in high school in a preseason preview between Chino Hills and Findlay Prep prior to the 2016-17 season. Chino Hills was coming off their undefeated season and Findlay Prep was welcoming senior five-star recruit Washington. Findlay was able to knock off Chino Hills 70-62.
Ball will join the Hornets’ backcourt with Terry Rozier, Devonte Graham and Malik Monk. Graham averaged 18.2 points per game in his second season, while Rozier averaged 18 points per game after coming over from the Celtics. With Ball’s size, there could be times where he is on the court with any combination of the three at the same time as he could potentially slide to point-forward.
“Definitely excited,” Ball said. “I’m just letting it all hit me right now. But like I said, I’m ready to play. I’m definitely ready to come in and just ready to lace them up.”
Ball has high optimism for playing in the NBA and with the Hornets. Prior to the draft, Ball was on a lot of draft board as the top pick but he eventually dropped to the No.3 slot. And that’s okay with Ball.
OFFICIAL: The Hornets have selected @MELOD1P with the No. 3 pick!!!
WELCOME TO BUZZ CITY LAMELO!!! pic.twitter.com/ODGLK87BJf
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) November 19, 2020
“I definitely feel great falling into with them,” Ball said. “But the way I’ve fallen down, I never looked at it like that because, like I say, whatever happens, happens, and I feel like it’s God’s plan. So wherever he wanted to put me, that’s where he put me, and I feel like he’s going to let me blossom there.”
Hopefully, he will gel well with the team to make them better. The Hornets have not won a playoff series since the 2001-02 season. They have also not made the playoffs since the 2016 season, where they lost against the Miami Heat in a seven-game series. So they of course missed out on the bubble experience from this past season.
The Hornets front office seems to hold the same sentiment as their new player and hopes to use his capabilities well while he is in Charlotte.
“We’re very happy that LaMelo Ball was there when we drafted,” Hornets President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He’s a very young, talented player that plays the kind of pace we want to play. He has a flare to his game. We drafted him for his size, length, how he handles the ball and how he pushes the ball. There’s a lot of upside there.”
Charlotte head coach James Borrego added: “We love the pick. We’ve studied him a tremendous amount, just a high-level kid. First of all, top-tier playmaker with size, versatility, can make plays for others. He makes it look effortless. I’m thrilled to have him and I think he fits our style of play. I think it’s a heck-of-a-pick for our franchise, for our organization, for our city.”
When it comes to where he fits on the team, Ball gives Kupchak a uniquely talented player to develop. Ball is 6-foot-7. He has some crazy ball handles that would even make Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry smile. On top of that, Ball has a lethal step-back 3-point shot in his offensive arsenal that is spot on to Curry.
In short, the Hornets are getting a dazzling young playmaker who can score from anywhere on the basketball court. That’s going to present a stiff problem for the rest of the league to deal with.
“I feel like I fit anywhere real good, and definitely the point forward,” Ball said. “I feel like could work because it’s definitely positionless basketball now. You can just get in and go. So Mitch is definitely saying the right stuff.”
The Hornets have been waiting for its new franchise player to be the cornerstone piece and fill the Spectrum Center.
“I feel like I’m just the right man for it,” Ball said. “Like I said, I feel like I’m born for this whole thing going on, so that’s pretty much my answer right there.”
Editor’s note: Featured image of LaMelo Ball (right) sitting and relaxing at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, California, as he takes in a USC-UCLA college basketball game in 2019. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/Dream Passion Photography