LaMelo Ball, Hampton draw scouts to Australia

SYDNEY — Strong starts to the preseason by American 18-year-olds LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton have ramped up the interest in the Australian National Basketball League among NBA scouts.

Local media said more than two dozen scouts watched preseason games in Hobart, Tasmania, this weekend, where Ball and Hampton impressed for their respective teams.

“We have had a bigger than usual number of requests from NBA teams, who are keen to come down and watch our NBL players,” NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said Tuesday. “This is a fantastic opportunity for the NBL and shows the global interest in the league.”

Both teenagers decided to skip college basketball in favor of the NBL, hoping to fast-track their development and improve their positions in the NBA draft.

Ball had 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Illawarra Hawks in a 122-119 overtime win over the Perth Wildcats in his latest game. Playing in his second game for the New Zealand Breakers, Hampton had 20 points, five rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks in a 102-95 loss to South East Melbourne.

Ball’s brother Lonzo Ball was drafted No. 2 overall by Los Angeles Lakers in 2017 and has since been traded to New Orleans Pelicans.

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