Legendary coach Brian Goorjian was not completely enamoured with LaMelo Ball’s stint in the NBL.
The 18-year-old point guard, who is touted as a top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, played 12 games for the Illawarra Hawks last season having made his way to Australia as part of the NBL Next Stars program.
Ball would win the NBL Rookie of the Year award for his efforts while attracting record crowds along the way, but what did his time in the NBL do for the Hawks as a team?
Six-time NBL championship-winning coach Goorjian, who has taken over at the Wollongong club, has his reservations.
“With LaMelo Ball you have a guy that needs to be serviced, is young, needs the ball in his hands and needs to showcase who he is for the draft,” he said on SEN NSW Breakfast with Joel & Jimmy.
“When he’s high in the draft, a lot of times for a number of reasons, they turn the tap off. From a basketball standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, it’s a different look than what it is for the League.
“It was immense and huge for the League and he's a tremendous talent but as far as the Hawks, it’s the first time they’ve ever finished in last place. He got those two triple-doubles and everybody promoted when he came to this (League) that there was a very big doubt that he would play all the way through the League (season).
“So I’m more inclined as a coach to do what Sydney did and get a guy (Didi Louzada) that’s been drafted and now wants to prove himself to those who (initially) drafted him in the NBA.
“That’s from a personal standpoint as a coach as opposed to somebody that’s trying to promote the League and the importance of that.”
Ball showed what he is capable of with a handful of top quality performances for the Hawks before heading home prematurely after a foot injury with the season still in full swing.