When LaMelo Ball said he hopes to play for one of a number of college basketball powerhouses at the next level, some quickly questioned whether or not the NCAA would welcome a player with Ball’s history down the line.
It turns out they should have been worrying more about the short term.
The La Lumiere School basketball team, one of the top programs in the country, has cancelled a game against Ball’s new team at the SPIRE Academy over questions about Ball’s eligibility as an amateur basketball player, according to a statement released to The Times of Northwest Indiana.
Additionally, two more top programs in Oak Hill Academy and St. Benedict’s Prep have backed out from scheduled dates with SPIRE, according to MaxPreps. Previously slated to face SPIRE on Dec. 3, Oak Hill seems to have been removed the game from its schedule.
Why high schools are canceling game against LaMelo Ball
Judging from La Lumiere’s full statement, it appears these teams are none too excited about the idea of facing a player that many now consider to be a professional:
“The scholar-athletes at La Lumiere School are here to prepare in every way for success at the college level,” the school said in a statement. “We aim to put together as competitive a schedule as possible for our team, but we have never played against a team whose roster included any players who have played at the professional level. With the recent news that someone who has played professionally intends to play for SPIRE Academy, we are not comfortable moving forward with our game slated for next Tuesday against SPIRE.”
These concerns obviously stem from Ball’s time playing in a Lithuanian professional basketball league and for his father LaVar’s Junior Basketball Association, which has made no small effort to be considered a professional alternative to college basketball.
Ball also won’t be playing in the vaunted McDonald’s All-American Game for similar reasons, according to a statement released to TMZ Sports:
“LaMelo Ball is a Professional Basketball player and has played professionally in Lithuania resulting in him being ineligible for the McDonald’s All-American Game,” the rep tells us.
Per ESPN, SPIRE’s athletic director believes Ball should still eligible because he apparently never received compensation during his time with those teams, a sentiment the family echoed at their press conference.
Clearly, SPIRE’s opponents feel differently, though that might be a bit rich coming from La Lumiere given what the father of former five-star recruit and La Lumiere student Brian Bowen Jr. testified, per Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel.
Bowen Sr. said he was paid $2,000 a month to have his son attend La Lumiere by then coach Shane Heirman
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) October 4, 2018
Amateur basketball, everyone.
Why did LaMelo Ball enroll at SPIRE?
Ball’s enrollment at a high school took many by surprise considering his father has essentially declared war on the idea of amateur athletics.
Then again, Ball’s ultimate goal is to play in the NBA and SPIRE appears to be a solid path for his plans. The school is not governed by Ohio High School Athletic Association and therefore seemed to have little reason to worry about Ball’s past as a player when it came to eligibility.
The school is widely considered a basketball factory, with Michigan State commit Rocket Watts Jr. among the players on its roster, and plays a schedule against teams from across the country. Adding Ball, who was ranked as a top-10 recruit in the Class of 2019 before he headed to Lithuania, would have been a boon for the team.
It would have been a boon for Ball as well, who could go back to playing elite youth competition rather than continue to face the talent of the JBA. Surrounded by players who had questionable prospects of ever playing D-I basketball, the teenager averaged a very normal stat line of 40 points, 11 assists and 13.8 rebounds per game.
Of course, SPIRE probably accepted Ball thinking that its challenging schedule would remain intact.
Does LaMelo Ball face a similar fight with the NCAA?
This could all be foreshadowing what is likely going to be a disappointing attempt at a college career for Ball.
Even though his family has maintained that its youngest son has received no compensation as a professional basketball player, there are plenty of reasons to think that won’t be enough to convince the NCAA and its programs to allow Ball into their ranks.
For starters, Ball already has a shoe deal with Big Baller Brand, and profits from that likely go straight to the Ball family, which could count as compensation. The Ball family has also hired an agent for LaMelo in Harrison Gaines, currently an extreme no-no for the NCAA, though that should change down the line for elite players. And even if Ball didn’t receive a cent from his time in Lithuania and with the JBA, he still signed a contract to play in a professional league and played with professionals.
A small lesson for the kids out there: trying to play as an amateur when your father’s company has already tweeted how excited you were to accomplish the mission of playing as a pro might just be an ill-advised tactic.
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