Photo Credit: Jayna Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Written By: Kendall Garriss
The Big Baller Brand is headed for Lithuania.
First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi on Monday, it was rumored that the former Chino Hills High School stars were in serious discussions to sign with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas within the next two days. Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania has now confirmed that the Ball brothers have each signed 1-year deals with the club.
Harrison Gaines, the representative for LaMelo and LiAngelo, said he has been fielding multiple offers this past week but wanted to find an opportunity for the brothers to both play meaningful minutes while under a flexible contract structure. The Ball brothers are expected to join the club in January.
“We engaged in serious talks with several teams, and Vytautas made the most sense as LaMelo and LiAngelo work to develop as professionals and set a foundation for their careers,” Gaines said. “It was critical to find a situation in a competitive league that works with both of their short- and long-term goals.”
Jonathan Givony of ESPN has analyzed the situation and provided commentary as it relates to the players’ future with the Lithuanian club. Givony believes that both LaMelo and LiAngelo have a great opportunity to grow and develop in the Baltic (BBL) League, where the stakes and expectation are much lower. However, away from the court, the Ball brothers would have to navigate living in the small Lithuanian village of Prienai, whose population hovers around 10,000 and lifestyle is the quintessential opposite of what they have been accustomed to in Chino Hills, CA. Further, the brothers would practically be playing for free, as the salaries for players at this professional level make approximately $500 a month. Last week, LaVar Ball, the players’ father, told the media that both of his sons had signed with an agent, making both of them ineligible for NCAA play.
“Our goal is to get both of these boys, have all three of them on the Lakers,” LaVar recently told Bleacher Report’s Adam Zagoria. “And sometimes it’s different roads to get there. But we’re going to get there. We’re just on a different road right now.”
LiAngelo, 19, was a member of the UCLA basketball team but was serving an indefinite suspension, after he and two other UCLA players were caught stealing while on a team trip in China. LaVar later pulled LiAngelo out of school to prepare him for the upcoming NBA draft. However, even before the shoplifting incident, LiAngelo had little to no chance of being drafted and was “not even on any of our scouting lists – even the extended lists,” one GM told Wojnarowski.
LaMelo, 16, is a 5-star recruit and was listed as the No. 15 overall player in the 2019 class, according to 247Sports composite rankings. Like his older brother, LaMelo was committed to UCLA but it appears that he will forgo college for the opportunity to play professionally.
Lonzo, the eldest Ball brother, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft to the Los Angeles Lakers after just one year at UCLA, where he was an All-American and led the Bruins to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. While Lonzo’s path to the NBA has been fairly clean-cut since he left high school, his brothers will likely have to navigate a more indirect path to the league. And it looks like that path will include a pit stop in Lithuania.