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LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball to Play Professionally in Lithuania

Sure. Why not?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Press Conference Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today

There are no longer any amateurs in the Ball family. LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball signed one-year contracts with Lithuanian team Prienu Vytautas, according to The Vertical and will join the professional team in early January.

LiAngelo, 19, withdrew from UCLA on December 4 after a team trip to China went awry. Chinese officials arrested the middle Ball brother and two teammates for suspicion of shoplifting. Immediately after LiAngelo’s return to the states, LaVar Ball told ESPN that the family was “exploring other options with Gelo. He’s out of there.” He never played a game for UCLA.

The eldest Ball brother, Lonzo, played for the Bruins during the 2016-17 season before declaring for the draft. LaMelo, the youngest of the three at 16, had also committed to UCLA for 2019. A high school sophomore, he had recently begun homeschooling in lieu of attending Chino Hills High School because of LaVar’s disagreements with the coach.

Vytautas plays in both the Baltic and Lithuanian leagues and won a championship last season. Their start is not as promising this season, as the team is currently in sixth place out of 10 in the Lithuanian Basketball League with a 4-9 record. ESPN reported that the team is currently without a general manager, is having money struggles, and cannot practice with regularity because of it.

One plus for the Balls is that former Lithuanian League players have gone onto the NBA, most notably Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, Boston’s Aron Baynes, and New Orlean’s Donatas Motiejunas. The other appeal to signing with Vytautas is coach Virginijus Sesku, whom ESPN’s Jonathan Givony called “the LaVar Ball of Lithuania” and a “very high energy guy” who loves technical fouls. Mixing the two feels … unwise, especially since Givony noted that the brothers “are not expected to see major playing time for Prienu Vytautas in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, but could be afforded an opportunity to develop in the Baltic (BBL) League.” Perhaps it’s for the best that Vytautas reportedly does not speak English and thus can’t communicate directly with LaVar. Ask his son’s coaches how that goes.

Turning professional disqualifies both LiAngelo and LaMelo from NCAA eligibility, though considering that their father had many run-ins with UCLA personnel before either played a minute for Bruins coach Steve Alford, it seemed college was always more of a stepping stone. LiAngelo entered the program a three-star recruit; LaMelo was a five-star recruit.

LaVar has been pretty clear in the past about his end goals for his sons. “All three of my boys are going to be one-and-done,” he said in 2016. “They were born to go pro.” Unlike the guarantee that the Bruins would win the 2017 national title with Lonzo, saying he would beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, and saying that the NBA would be easier for Lonzo than college, this—all three of his sons going pro—LaVar prognostication has technically come true.