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LaMelo Ball's bid to buy Illawarra Hawks not done deal yet

LaMelo Ball in action for the Illawarra Hawks
Image: LaMelo Ball in action for the Illawarra Hawks

Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) issued a statement on Friday in response to reports that Ball had bought the Illawarra Hawks, the club - based south of Sydney - where he played 12 games last season.

Ball's business manager, Jermaine Jackson, on Thursday told ESPN: "We own the team. It is a done deal."

The 18-year-old American, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, had an injury-shortened season with the Hawks because of a bone bruise on his left foot.

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"Melo loves the Illawarra fans. He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home," Jackson told ESPN. "When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, 'Let's own the team'.

"He is going to be locked into his NBA career, but we are going to hire the right people to oversee everything."

Lamelo Ball (R), pictured at 2019 Summer League with older brother Lonzo
Image: Lamelo Ball (R), pictured at 2019 Summer League with older brother Lonzo

The NBL confirmed Ball and his manager had discussions with the Hawks' owners while he was in Australia, but "at this point we are continuing to work with current license holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL."

The NBL has final approval on any transfer of license and no application has been made to date, the league's statement said.

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Ball joined Illawarra as part of the NBL's 'Next Stars' program and averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in 12 games until December

He helped draw big crowds, including a league-record 17,514 for the Hawks' November game against the Sydney Kings in Sydney.

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Ball also donated a month of his salary, which was not disclosed, to a national relief fund in aid of wildfire victims in Australia in January.

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