The next chapter of the Ball saga leads to Lithuania

    LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball will play professionally overseas

    More stories from Scott Procter


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    A month after being arrested for shoplifting in China, LiAngelo Ball has signed a contract to play professional basketball in Lithuania alongside his younger brother, LaMelo.

    Last month, LiAngelo Ball was one of three University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) basketball players arrested in China for shoplifting. The team was staying in Hangzhou ahead of their season opener when the trio stole designer sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store.

    After spending a little over a day in a Chinese jail, the three were released and sent back to the U.S. Here, they were met by an indefinite suspension from UCLA basketball; one Ball would not see through to the end.

    Ball spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest last week alongside his father, Lavar. LiAngelo explained to fans that he began to steal after his teammates did, and that he made a stupid mistake. The biggest news of the day did not come from LiAngelo’s first public appearance since the incident, but rather from his oft-in-the-headlines father.

    Lavar declared to the basketball world that he will be pulling his son out of UCLA, in light of the ongoing suspension, to begin training him for the NBA.

    While LiAngelo was involved with a trio engulfed in scandal in China, he is also part of a trio known for much better things here in the U.S. The eldest Ball, Lonzo, is the rookie starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and started at UCLA last season. LaMelo, the youngest brother, has also made quite a name for himself, most notably scoring 92 points in a high school game last season.

    This isn’t the first news of this sort to come from the Ball family as Lavar announced in October that he pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills (California) High School to train him for the next two seasons. The plan was still for LaMelo to follow in his brothers’ footsteps at UCLA, but that was until he and LiAngelo both signed with an agent last week. This means the two cannot play basketball at UCLA or any other college.

    The next step for LaMelo and LiAngelo is to play professionally overseas in preparation for the NBA. On Monday, LiAngelo and LaMelo signed a one-year contract with the Lithuanian team Vytautus.

    The franchise hopes the Balls can provide a spark on and off the court for an organization in its infant stages. With LaMelo being a 5-star recruit, according to 247Sports, and LiAngelo set to play for a preseason top-25 college program before his departure, the brothers will bring talent to the lesser competitive Lithuanian league they will likely play in. The team has discussed a role of 20-25 minutes a game in the Baltic League, according to ESPN.

    The biggest impact the Balls could have on their new team may not be what they can do on the court, but what they’re father does off it. While Lavar may be more known for saying he could beat Michael Jordan in a one or one or more recently getting into a war of words with President Donald Trump, he is a marketing genius.

    In the span of about two years, Lavar has founded Big Baller Brand where two of Lonzo’s signature shoes have been released along with the first ever signature sneaker for a high-school athlete for LaMelo. He has helped launched his family into the national spotlight and will undoubtedly do the same for Vytautus. Not to mention, LiAngelo and LaMelo can really play ball.

    Lonzo has already proven to be worth some of the antics that come with Lavar (averaging 8 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds as a rookie) so the Balls have earned the benefit of the doubt. While the road to the NBA may not be as easy for Gelo and Melo, don’t be surprised to see them getting selected on draft night a few years from now.

    “The grand plan stays the same,” Lavar said. “All these boys are going to get on the Lakers. Watch how I do this. People will look up and say, ‘Wow, how’d they all get on the Lakers?’”

    He may sound overly-optimistic to some, but that sounds like a man with a plan to me.