LaMelo Ball

How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

When 2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker committed to Howard University in D.C., he sent shockwaves through the entire landscape of the basketball world, becoming the first top recruit to announce his intent to play at a historically Black college or university (HBCU) since Earl Jones played for the University of the District of Columbia in 1980.

While the decision was intricate and monumental on a multitude of levels, Maker revealed an interesting layer of his decision-making process:

He thought of future NBA lottery pick LaMelo Ball.

"I figured if LaMelo Ball could go to Australia, play in facilities like that, and still be considered a top NBA prospect, why not Howard?" Maker said.

Ball's path to the draft very well may be one of the most remarkable in sports history. Fast-forwarding to his final season at SPIRE, Ball was not eligible to attend college, therefore he agreed to a deal with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia to play in the NBL. 

RELATED: HOWARD FINALIST FOR 2021 FIVE STAR DEFENSIVE END

The decision was heavily scrutinized nationally with many believing it would drastically decrease his draft stock -- one disclosed scout told USA Today “the untraditional route (NBL) will almost certainly cost him (LaMelo) once draft night approaches."

After averaging 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds in the NBL and having his season cut short due to a bone bruise in his left foot, Ball is in the conversation to go the number one overall in the upcoming draft.

Point made. 

"People also sleep on the competitive nature of the MEAC [Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference]," Maker said. "The pace and open flow style of play of the MEAC is more similar to the NBA, in my opinion. It’s a read-and-react league, so it will definitely help me get ready for the NBA."

Former head coach and NBC Sports Washington basketball analyst Jimmy Patsos, believes in Makers' decision and thinks it could spark a huge movement within college basketball. 

"If one person can lead a revolution, one person can lead a movement, this could be the guy," Patsos said on Friday. "Why not him changing the landscape of college basketball?"

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2020 NBA Draft: LaMelo Ball highlights best point guard prospects

2020 NBA Draft: LaMelo Ball highlights best point guard prospects

The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is a look at the five best point guard prospects in this year's class and how they would fit with the Wizards with analysis from NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes and Tyler Byrum...

1. LaMelo Ball

Team: Illawarra (Australia)
Age: 18 (turns 19 in August)
Height: 6-7
Weight: 190
Wingspan: 6-10

2019/20 stats: 12 G, 31.3 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 37.5 FG% (6.3/16.7), 29.4 3PT% (2.3/7.7), 77.2 FT%

Player comparison: Lonzo Ball, Ricky Rubio

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 3rd, Sports Illustrated 5th, Ringer 2nd, NBADraft.net 3rd, Bleacher Report 3rd

Fit with Wizards: Ball represents the most interesting question mark in this year's draft for the Wizards because he plays the same position and a similar style to John Wall, their highest-paid and most accomplished player. Wall is a five-time All-Star on a supermax contract, but he is also coming off a ruptured Achilles and the Wizards are in a position where they probably need to pick the best player available, no matter who it is.

Ball and Wall, despite holding potential for a cool nickname, likely wouldn't be able to co-exist on the floor at the same time, at least initially. They are both at their best with the ball in their hands and don't have the consistent outside jumper to complement each other.

That doesn't mean the Wizards shouldn't take Ball. If he stands out as the best player on the board, they could take him, start him out as Wall's back-up and then figure it out later.

All of that, however, is for the Wizards front office to figure out. What is certain is that Ball will be one of the first players taken in the draft and he could be the best player available when the Wizards are picking. -Hughes

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2. Tyrese Haliburton

Team: Iowa State
Age: 20
Height: 6-5
Weight: 175
Wingspan: 7-0

2019/20 stats: 22 G, 36.7 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 50.4 FG% (5.6/11.1), 41.9 3PT% (2.4/5.6), 82.2 FT%

Player comparison: Penny Hardaway, Shaun Livingston

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 5th, Sports Illustrated 4th, Ringer 4th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 5th

Fit with Wizards: The beauty of Haliburton's game is that he can fit pretty much anywhere, with any team and in any system. His two-way potential and versatility make him ideal for positionless basketball. And his basketball smarts should make him adaptable to new surroundings.

When it comes to the Wizards, Haliburton is on the short-list of their best fits in this draft. Though he is technically a guard and they have a lot invested in Wall and Bradley Beal, Haliburton could likely co-exist well with them, as a combo guard off the bench or alongside them as a small-ball three. His shooting ability would bode well for being effective off-the-ball on offense and his length and instincts suggest he could hold his own defensively at the small forward spot.

Haliburton could also give the Wizards something they desperately lack which is a scrappy perimeter defender. He has the potential to be better in that area than anyone currently on their roster. -Hughes

FULL PLAYER PROFILE

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3. Cole Anthony

Team: North Carolina
Age: 20
Height: 6-3
Weight: 190
Wingspan: 6-5

2019/20 stats: 22 G, 34.9 mpg, 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 38.0 FG% (6.0/15.7), 34.8 3PT% (2.2/6.4), 75.0 FT%

Player comparison: Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 6th, Sports Illustrated 15th, Ringer 12th, NBADraft.net 6th, Bleacher Report 6th

Fit with Wizards: Anthony might be easier to mesh with Wall and Beal than other point guards because of the style he plays. He figures to be effective off the ball with his three-point shot and, though he's probably too small to pair with both Wall and Beal in three-guard lineups, should be able to co-exist with either of them individually. Even with Wall, Anthony could play the two on offense and take the point guard assignment on defense.

If the Wizards took Anthony, they could start him out as a microwave scorer off the bench. Though sometimes that is a difficult transition for rookies, Anthony has the tools to be good at it. He would bring a different element with his energy, handle and range.

Ultimately, what Anthony amounts to is a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect. The ceiling appears high, maybe like a Kemba Walker-type scoring guard. But players like that often times level out as a Trey Burke or Shabazz Napier, two guys Wizards fans know well. -Hughes

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4. Killian Hayes 

Team: Ulm (France)
Age: 18 (turns 19 in July)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 215
Wingspan: 6-8

2019/20 stats: 10 G, 26.8 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 45.5 FG% (4.6/10.1), 39.0 3PT% (1.6/4.1), 90.9 FT%

Player comparison: Goran Dragic, Malcolm Brogdon

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, Sports Illustrated 7th, Ringer 1st, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th

Fit with Wizards: With some of the prospects in this year's draft, it is fair to question whether the Wizards can justify spending such a valuable draft asset given their pathway to playing time could be obstructed.

Hayes, though, should be considered one of the exceptions because it seems like he would be able to play with both Wall and Beal and maybe even at the same time in three-guard lineups. Assuming Hayes is indeed 6-foot-5 as he is listed, he would be the tallest of the three and possibly be able to serve as the three on defense. And his shooting ability and play-making versatility indicate he could be effective both on and off the ball.

That's not to compare Hayes to Jordan, but also Wall and Beal aren't as good as Drexler. What if Hayes actually is the next Harden? If the Wizards feel that way, then the presence of Wall and Beal should be a secondary concern. -Hughes

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5. Nico Mannion

Team: Arizona
Age: 19
Height: 6-3
Weight: 190
Wingspan: 6-2

2019/20 stats: 32 G, 32.3 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.0 bpg, 39.2 FG% (4.5/11.5), 32.7 3PT% (1.7/5.1), 79.7 FT%

Player comparison: Derrick White, Landry Shamet

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, Sports Illustrated 17th, Ringer 25th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 22nd

Fit with Wizards: Depending on which team drafts Mannion, he is not projected to be a Day 1 starter. There are still some lapses in his game that need addressing, such as his ability to penetrate, separate and even his burst off the dribble.

Some encouraging signs point Mannion being able to be an ideal combo guard that can play the one or two positions. He's a knock-down shooter as well as his passing skills and vision are at an elite level. That would afford Washington the flexibility to have a guard be able to play spot minutes for both Wall and Beal while being able to play alongside both of the stars. 

Again, there is whether the Wizards would want to spend their first-rounder on a player whose only path to playing next year is coming off the bench. The team might not have the roster flexibility to do so if they are drafting in the top 10. - Byrum

FULL PLAYER PROFILE

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2020 NBA Draft: LaMelo Ball declares for draft in expected move

2020 NBA Draft: LaMelo Ball declares for draft in expected move

The biggest name in the 2020 NBA Draft has now officially entered into the mix, as LaMelo Ball, a U.S.-born point guard from the Illawarra Hawks of Australia has declared, according to ESPN.

Ball, who turns 19 in August, is projected by most to be a top-5 pick. He is a 6-foot-7 playmaker who skipped the NCAA ranks to start his professional career overseas.

Ball is the younger brother of Lonzo Ball, who was the second overall pick in 2017. Lonzo started his career for the L.A. Lakers and now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, having been a piece in the Anthony Davis trade.

LaMelo is similar to Lonzo in size and playing style. He is a gifted passer and rebounds well for his position. He also has questions surrounding his outside shot.

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In terms of skill and athleticism, he's about as advanced as anyone in this year's draft class. Many believe he can develop into an All-Star at the NBA level.

The Wizards could be picking in Ball's range if the current standings hold and they get some luck in the lottery. And if that situation does arise, they will have to determine whether Ball can coexist in a rotation that already includes All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

With his talent and pedigree, however, Ball seems like a safe bet to be one of the first players off the board.

For more on Ball and his potential fit with the Wizards, check out our draft profile.

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