LiAngelo Ball is done at UCLA without playing a single game. The 19-year-old shooter had been suspended indefinitely after being accused of shoplifting on a team trip to China, but LaVar Ball confirmed Monday that LiAngelo would not return to UCLA as a player or a student.
It appears that LiAngelo Ball will not rejoin organized basketball and begin training for the NBA Draft, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. It’s questionable whether he would get any interest as a prospect at the next level, and he’s almost guaranteed not to be drafted. After all, Ball was projected to come off the bench for the Bruins and was only the 226th ranked recruit in his high school class.
However, Ball has other options. This is a big story because of the Ball factor, but it’s an interesting one for other reasons. Top basketball prospects still overwhelmingly take the college path on their way to the NBA, but there are more cases in recent years of players using other methods. LiAngelo Ball should use those.
I’ll say it right now: LiAngelo Ball should head to the G-League.
Ball doesn’t seem likely to use another option
Ball could transfer to a Division-I school, but he would have to sit out a year. He could also transfer to a junior college, but that’s a clear step down and puts him in a worse situation than UCLA.
There’s also overseas, but Ball probably isn’t leaving the country so soon after the international debacle that put him in this situation in the first place. European seasons are already starting, and Ball would have to scramble to find a new situation. It would be a massive learning curve for a 19-year-old with too much media scrutiny trained on him.
It appears that Ball will stay home, train with his dad and younger brother, and prepare for the NBA Draft. But Ball currently isn’t an NBA prospect, and it’s virtually impossible to change that sentiment without proving himself in organized basketball. In August, Ball and his UCLA teammates were playing against LeBron James in a pickup game. Ball needs to be going against high level competition to improve.
That’s why the G-League is the best option
NBA Draft eligible basketball prospects can join the G-League by signing with the league itself. All teams have 48 hours to claim him. If the prospect goes unclaimed, he would be eligible to sign with any team after that. Likewise, his draft eligibility would remain unchanged — any prospect would still be eligible the next time they are 19 or a year removed from high school.
We saw P.J. Hairston do this a few seasons ago after being suspended by North Carolina. In January 2014, he left school, signed with the Texas Legends, and was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Hairston was older than Ball, but the situation is similar.
Ball could play against second-tier basketball talent, even players who are currently signed to NBA teams. He wouldn’t have to leave the country and could maybe even stay close to home.
Is Ball good enough for a G-League team to sign him?
Maybe not. Ball’s best chance at making it to the league is as a shooter, and at 6’5, he has the size to do that. His athleticism and lateral mobility are question marks, but at least Ball’s shooting mechanics are the most normal of the three Ball brothers.
But surely one G-League team would take a flyer on him. Like minor league baseball, G-League teams have proven that they aren’t above publicity stunts. The Texas Legends employed Paul Sturgess in 2014, a 7’8 former Harlem Globetrotter who played just 40 minutes for the team.
Ball might not actually play, but being on a team and practicing against near-NBA-level talent would be good for him. A G-League team would bring him in to help sell tickets. It’s a win-win scenario.
How likely is this?
The Balls seem committed on the stay-at-home-and-train option. It’s one that has also been considered for LaMelo Ball, who may not be eligible to play at UCLA after Big Baller Brand has begun selling his signature sneaker. So it doesn’t seem likely.
It would be great for the G-League if he did, though, especially as the league becomes an increasingly legitimate option for basketball prospects who want to get paid right away and choose to skip college basketball entirely.