LaMelo Ball will not return to the court this season for the Illawarra Hawks in the Australian NBL.
According to ESPN's Jonathan Givony, Ball's manager, Jermaine Jackson, said via text that Ball will now focus on rehabbing a foot injury that cost him much of the season: "Melo's foot is totally healed, but the doctor's policy is if you're out for six weeks, you must rehab for six weeks. He's starting court work tomorrow."
Jackson later told Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia that Ball will "rehab and pay more attention to his race horse."
More from Jermaine Jackson, on LaMelo Ball shutting it down: “He’s gonna rehab and pay more attention to his race horse,” he tells me via text. He then sent me this photo. How good. pic.twitter.com/XnasUT7k3X— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) January 16, 2020
Ball appeared in only 12 games for the Hawks, but he left quite an impression, averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game en route to establishing himself as one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA draft.
Since Illawarra has just six regular-season games remaining, it comes as little surprise that Ball has opted to sit out the remainder of the campaign and focus on the draft.
Even in limited action in the Australian league, Ball opened some eyes with his versatile skill set. He proved to be a capable scorer, facilitator and ball-handler, and his long, wiry frame at 6'7" made him an effective perimeter defender as well.
There was plenty of skepticism regarding Ball's draft stock after he de-committed from UCLA and played in the ill-fated Junior Basketball Association founded by his father, LaVar Ball, but he rebuilt his reputation with a strong high school season at Spire Academy and some impressive performances in Australia.
On his most recent big board published Thursday, Bleacher Report NBA draft expert Jonathan Wasserman listed Ball as the No. 1 prospect in the 2020 NBA draft.
Givony acknowledged Ball's talent but also noted that NBA teams may still have some concerns about him, including a "reportedly erratic work ethic," plus the potential distractions that could come along with LaVar Ball.
Los Angeles Lakers fans are well aware of the latter factor, as LaVar often made his presence known and created some waves after the Lakers selected his eldest son, Lonzo Ball, No. 2 overall in the 2017 NBA draft.
LaMelo may also unfairly pay for the fact that Lonzo has not come close to living up to expectations in the NBA thus far.
The Lakers traded Lonzo to the New Orleans Pelicans during the offseason as part of the deal that landed them Anthony Davis, and his level of play hasn't really jumped.
Lonzo is averaging 12.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from the arc. In three NBA seasons overall, he owns averages of 10.6 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds, plus a field goal percentage of just 38.6 percent.
LaMelo struggled a bit as a shooter with the Hawks as well, making just 46 percent of his two-point attempts and 25 percent of his three-point tries, so showing improvement in that area will likely be a major area of focus leading up to the draft.