Is Europe ready for LaVar Ball and the Big Baller Brand? The answer may be known come January when two-thirds of the famous Ball brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, head to Lithuania to play for Prienu Vytautas. LiAngelo, 19, and LaMelo, 16, signed one-year deals with the first division Lithuanian team as they take the next step to becoming professional athletes.
The signing was confirmed by Harrison Gaines, agent for all three Ball brothers, and Virginijus Seskus, coach and general manager of Prienu Vytautas, which plays in the Lithuanian (LKL) league and the Baltic League.
LiAngelo and LaMelo are joining a low-level yet competitive team that won the championship last season. The Ball brothers are not expected to play that much when the team plays in the LKL, where teams like Lietkabelis and Zalgiris, a couple of EuroCup participants, also compete. The contract, however, supposedly includes guarantees that LiAngelo and LaMelo will get ample playing time, 20 to 25 minutes a game each, when the team plays in the Baltic League. The move is seen more as a marketing ploy, as reported by Business Insider.
Prienu Vytautas is also a good enough breeding ground for future NBA players. Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics’ Aron Baynes, former New York Knick Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Houston Rockets draft pick Isaiah Hartenstein have all played for the Lithuanian team.
LiAngelo was previously with the UCLA Bruins but was pulled out by his father LaVar after the shoplifting incident in China, which led to his indefinite suspension from the team. LaMelo, meanwhile, was about to enter junior year with Chino Hills High School in California when he dropped out and signed with an agent, ending any hope that the youngest Ball brother will suit up for the Bruins. The move contradicted the earlier pronouncement from LaVar that LaMelo will play for UCLA in two years.
After his decision to pull LiAngelo and LaMelo from their respective schools, LaVar had them sign with Gaines, officially ending their amateur careers. LaVar also said that the family’s plan is for the younger Ball brothers to play together overseas, as reported by ESPN.
“I don’t care about the money,” LaVar Ball said. “I want them to go somewhere where they will play them together on the court at the same time. The priority is for the boys to play on the same team.”
LiAngelo and LaMelo’s older brother, Lonzo, is currently the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers after the team drafted him second overall in the recent NBA Rookie Draft. Despite the hype, Lonzo has been underperforming, leading LaVar to complain about how his son is being utilized by head coach Luke Walton.
Lonzo said that he agrees with LiAngelo’s decision to leave UCLA, calling it “the best thing for him.” Ball also said that his brothers signing with Gaines is “a good decision.”