After pulling both LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball out of their respective schools, LaVar Ball’s sons have now signed to their big brother’s agent, Harrison Gaines. Having an agent and his own shoe now makes LaMelo ineligible to become an NCAA student-athlete one day. The plan now is to get both brothers to play on the same team overseas. Although LiAngelo isn’t projected to be an NBA pick in this year’s draft, LaMelo is still one of the top recruits in his high school class and the rule to get drafted is to be one year removed from high school.
LaMelo certainly isn’t the first player to take the professional route as opposed to traditional college or even finishing high school.
In 2009, San Diego high school star Jeremy Tyler decided to skip his senior year after averaging 28.7 points per game as a junior. Tyler went to play in Israel, where he ended up quitting the team in 2010. Many coaches and even his advisor said that Tyler lacked a work ethic and felt an American sense of entitlement when he first went professional. He averaged 2.1 points in 7.6 minutes in the course of the 10 games he played in the Israeli League. Tyler then went to Japan, where he averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in 15.4 minutes during the 33 contests he played in the BJ League. He averaged 3.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, and .4 blocks while playing for the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, and New York Knicks during his three seasons in the NBA. Tyler is now playing for the Syndey Kings in the National Basketball League. Tyler was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 39th selection in the 2011 draft.
Emmanuel Mudiay passed on his prior SMU commitment in the 2014-15 season when the school was in the midst of losing its postseason eligibility. He then signed a one year, $1.2 million deal in the Chinese Basketball Association. Mudiay has now averaged 11.7 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game in the course of his first three seasons in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. Mudiay was selected seventh overall by the Nuggets in 2015.
Brandon Jennings began the trend in 2008. One of the top point guards in the nation passed up college to go to Italy for a year. He averaged 6.3 points, 2 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.6 rebounds in 18 minutes of action per game in the EuroLeague. He played eight seasons in the NBA and averaged 14.3 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.2 steals during his career. He’s currently playing in the CBA. Jennings was selected 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2009 draft.
Professional teams overseas, for the most part, don’t play young Americans that much when they know the players are only going to be with the team for a short time. In many cases, the young players don’t get the opportunity to develop physically enough to play alongside other professionals, hence one of the reasons the NBA required a gap year before going professional. Mudiay put up the best gap year overseas stats because he only played in 10 games for the CBA and the league is more entertainment focused than the leagues in Europe.
The good news for LiAngelo and LaMelo is they have past examples to look at and learn from as they prepare to play professionally. So far, it seems the ceiling for a player like LaMelo might be Jennings and more so Tyler for LiAngelo. However, LaVar said his goal is to get all three of his sons in the Los Angeles Lakers organization, even if that means having LiAngelo play on the team’s G-League affiliated Defenders. Having all three sons in the organization using that method is a much more realistic scenario for the Big Baller Brand.