NBL Commissioner Jermey Loeliger says the “floodgates” are open for the league to attract more LaMelo Ball type Next Stars to Australia and New Zealand over the next couple of years.
Ball, along with RJ Hampton, Didi Louzada and Terry Armstrong, are playing in the NBL this season under the Next Stars program, which provides players an alternative route to the NBA instead of going to college.
Ball is a projected top three pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, while ESPN’s latest mock draft has Hampton predicted to be picked with the sixth selection.
The Next Stars program has also drawn global eyeballs to the NBL, with over a million fans watching Ball’s debut for the Illawarra Hawks against the Brisbane Bullets via Facebook Watch.
Loeliger says the proposition is an enticing one for future NBA players, with more and more interest being sparked in the program.
“The floodgates are well and truly open,” Loeliger told The SEN NBL Show.
“With the RJ and LaMelo announcements, we saw a massive influx in interest. The reality is people tend to announce their intentions for their sophomore year at about the same time as RJ and LaMelo did.
“People won’t sign up and play their cards too soon I would imagine. Certainly, there are a lot of conversations being had and it’s playing out the way we hoped that it would with some really significant talent who are prospective 2021 draft picks expressing a lot of interest.
“It’s no longer just agents and players and families who are expressing interest, it’s some of the big shoe companies out of the US, who are absolutely fundamental to the process of the recruitment and development of young athletes.
“I think it has a very high likelihood of getting even bigger and better.”
Todd Blanchfield, one of Ball’s teammates at Illawarra, says the 18-year-old has been a joy to be around at the club.
“He gets there early like everyone else, gets his shots up and then leaves late after he gets his shots,” Blanchfield said.
“He has an unbelievable amount of energy, it’s non-stop. It’s loud, he is go go go.
“At the end of the day, one thing that has really surprised me is despite all the hype that comes with him, he is just an 18-year-old kid who wants to win and wants to be a good teammate.”
Listen to this week’s episode of The SEN NBL Show with Darren Parkin, Peter Hooley, Jeremy Loeliger and Todd Blanchfield in the player below.