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NBA

Projected No.1 pick LaMelo Ball expecting more US players to follow his path to the NBL to prepare for the NBA Draft

LaMelo Ball has been creating headlines since his announcement to head Down Under to play in the NBL ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft.

Fast forward five months since his announcement on ESPN's The Jump, where he stated, "I'm trying to be the No. 1 pick for the 2020 draft." Ball now sits at the top of several NBA mock draft boards, projected to be the first selection come June.

"For sure feels good," Ball told NBA.com in an exclusive sit-down at Foot Locker QV in Melbourne. "[I've] been working for it for a minute now and pretty much just trying to grow from there."

While there were plenty of questions marks surrounding Ball's move to the Illawarra Hawks on the other side of the world, the 18-year-old has let his basketball do the talking, becoming the youngest player in NBL history to record a triple-double, with a career-high 32 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in their 114-106 November win over the Cairns Taipans in OT.

He followed that up with another triple-double in his very next game, recording 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against fellow projected lottery pick RJ Hampton and the New Zealand Breakers.

With the teen star sending social media around the world into overdrive with every deep three-pointer, Showtime assist and jelly layup, Ball says many of his peers back home either in college or high school have had their heads turned by his showstopping games in the NBL and the potential that lays in playing overseas to prepare for the Draft.

"For sure a lot of questions." Ball said of his conversations with friends back home. "I feel like people in the future are going to start doing it, [it's been] pretty much all good feedback."

Ball and Hampton arrived in Australia as the faces of the Next Stars program, designed to give potential draft picks an opportunity to get paid to develop in a professional environment against season veterans and six months out from the Draft, Ball credits the NBL for giving him the freedom to work on his game full-time and learn the ropes of being a professional athlete and everything that comes with it.

"I just like being different, college isn't for everyone I think, so this path can help you do other stuff that you want to do," Ball added.

"It's a great league, they say it's the second [best] league, NBA players that were in the NBA stuff like that and people trying to get to the NBA, it's a great league."

Following his first triple-double performance, vision emerged of Ball working out at 2:00am the morning of the game, alongside his trainer Jermaine Jackson and Hawks teammate Sunday Dech, giving an insight into the teenager's work ethic.

"Just pretty much the grind never stops," Ball said.

"You know you always have room to get better, so after you have a good game, get back in there and just keep working. Pretty much just trying to improve everything, you know that's pretty much the main thing, just going at it every day."

For the Ball family, basketball is the family business and as the youngest brother continues his preparation for the NBA Draft, his older brother Lonzo, who currently plays for the New Orleans Pelicans has been there guiding him every step of the way.

Lonzo, who was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers entered the Draft with a level of hype similar to his younger brother.

"I pretty much talk to him every day," LaMelo said.

"He's always giving me advice. [He] pretty much [says] 'keep your head up. Do what you want to do. And whatever you feel is best, follow that."

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