LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball have turned pro, agreeing to one-year contracts with Vytautas Prienai in the first-division Lithuanian league, sources told Yahoo Sports.
LaMelo, 16, and LiAngelo Ball, 19, agreed to deals with Vytautas that will allow the two prospects to start their careers in a competitive professional league with a history of producing NBA players and focus on development. Both will report to the team in early January, sources told Yahoo Sports. LaMelo and LiAngelo — the younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers starting point guard Lonzo Ball — began the process of exploring international deals last week.
They have now committed to a Lithuanian team that won a championship last season and plays in competitive games in the Baltic and Lithuanian leagues, which includes teams that participate in EuroCup (Lietkabelis) and EuroLeague (Zalgiris). Several notable players have spent time in the Lithuanian league before joining the NBA or other leagues, including Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick in the 2011 NBA draft; Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes; ex-Houston and New Orleans forward Donatas Motiejunas; former New York Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas; and Isaiah Hartenstein, who was a second-round pick to Houston in the 2017 draft.
Over the past week, Harrison Gaines, the representative for LaMelo and LiAngelo, fielded multiple offers and worked to finalize the finer details of a unique contract situation. For LaMelo and LiAngelo, the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in each potential level of play for Vytautas was as important as the flexibility of their one-year agreements.
“We engaged in serious talks with several teams, and Vytautas made the most sense as LaMelo and LiAngelo work to develop as professionals and set a foundation for their careers,” Gaines said. “It was critical to find a situation in a competitive league that works with both of their short- and long-term goals.”
LaMelo left Chino Hills High in California before his junior season this year to be home-schooled and is considered a legitimate pro prospect. The move to turn pro overseas is unprecedented for the consensus top-10 player in the class of 2019, who is skipping two years of high school and his commitment at UCLA. Luka Doncic — the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft — turned pro in Europe early in his basketball life and has set a recent standard of development and ability to succeed against older competition in tougher leagues.
“Our club is excited for the arrival of LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball,” Vytautas sports director Vilius Vaitkevicius said. “We are committed to their long-term success and development as professional basketball players.”
Former Gonzaga standout Kevin Pangos and two-year NBA veteran Brandon Davies currently play for the Lithuanian league’s top team, Zalgiris.
LiAngelo parted ways with UCLA last week to begin focusing on his training for professional basketball. LiAngelo and UCLA teammates Cody Riley and Jordan Hill were involved in a shoplifting incident in China in November and received indefinite suspensions.
LaMelo, a gifted 6-foot-5 point guard, and LiAngelo, a 6-foot-5 scorer, starred at Chino Hills High, where LaMelo had a 92-point performance in February and LiAngelo had a 72-point game last December. Both joined Lonzo to lead Chino Hills to a state championship in 2016.
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