LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball have both finalized one-year deals to play with Lithuanian basketball club Prienu Vytautas, according to a report from The Vertical’s Shams Charania. They’re both expected to report to the club in early January.
Sources: LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball have turned pro, signing one-year contracts with first division Lithuanian team Vytautas. They will report to the club in early January.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 11, 2017
The move comes after LiAngelo Ball, 19, was pulled out of UCLA last week and announced his intention to play professionally overseas. LaMelo Ball, 16, verbally committed to play at UCLA at 13 years old but will now instead begin his professional basketball career three years before he’s eligible to enter the NBA draft.
It’s unclear how what the value of their contracts are worth at this point. According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, the brothers may not be playing for much with the Lithuanian Club and could be sent down to a minor league to play instead.
The Ball brothers are not expected to see major playing time for Prienu Vytautas in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, but could be afforded an opportunity to develop in the Baltic (BBL) League, where the stakes are much lower. The club must decide whether to pull the trigger first. https://t.co/XIihTVnZMD— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) December 11, 2017
From what I'm told, salaries for players at this level of competition usually don't exceed $500 per month in the absolute best case. It wouldn't surprise me if the Ball brothers ended up playing for free. Certainly not the most glamorous league or part of the world to live in.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) December 11, 2017
It’s hard for even the most grizzled veteran players to go overseas and get playing time. It’s a completely different world than what the Ball brothers are used to. Now they’ll have to navigate it together.
This is a huge deal for LaMelo Ball
It’s rare that you see top NBA prospects beginning their professional careers so early. Does it work out? Only time will tell. We’ve seen players like Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings have successful, middling NBA careers. Kristaps Porzingis is already a star. But we’ve also seen Emmanuel Mudiay struggle to make an adjustment to the league.
This could work out well for him, but it all depends on his talent and the work that he does there. Playing time will be scarce, so he’ll have to continue to improve off the court.
But not so much for LiAngelo Ball
He may have ended up here anyway. According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, not many NBA executives believed in his pro potential in the league.
Ex-UCLA freshman LiAngelo Ball has no chance that he'll be drafted in June — and that was true before his shoplifting incident in China. "He's not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists," one GM told ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 4, 2017
So without being able to showcase himself in college, this was probably his best bet aside from adding himself to the waiver pool in the NBA G-League. And even then, there’s no guarantee he’d be picked up by a team and he also wouldn’t have an opportunity for an NBA call up until next season.
Much like LaMelo, his playing time will be scarce. But he’ll still have an opportunity to improve and be around the game.
Playing overseas is still hard
This is going to be difficult for the Ball brothers. Yes, they’re now professional basketball players. But they’re navigating in an environment totally unfamiliar to them. They’re moving to a foreign country with a different culture — even in basketball.
Plus, it seems, their coach doesn’t even speak english.
Virginijus Seskus, coach of Prienu Vytautas, who is considering signing LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, has been described to me as "the LaVar Ball of Lithuania". Very high energy guy apparently. Loves to get technical fouls. They'll get along great, despite him speaking no english.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) December 11, 2017
Here’s one of his former player’s confirming that.
He had me my rookie year for a different club there, told me through our assistant during training camp that he wouldn’t play me much because he couldn’t speak to me.— Billy Baron (@Billy_Baron) December 11, 2017
So, while this might be a successful move for the Ball family, it probably won’t be smooth sailing. We’ll see if this newest chapter in the Ball saga works out soon enough.
Big Baller Brand made the signing official on instagram:
LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are Officially Professional Basketball Players. Both Ball Brothers have signed to play for Club "Prienai" in Lithuania. It's not about the money for the Ball Brothers. They have a passion to play Basketball and to experience playing as pros was the Goal. They have accomplished this mission and are excited to be playing on the same team to top it off. The Big Baller way! #BBB #Familyfirst #builtforthis