Kings statement NBL game looms for Ball

Murray Wenzel
Teenage American guard LaMelo Ball is being touted as a potential No.1 pick in the NBA draft

LaMelo Ball could solidify his status as the NBA's next No.1 draft pick in front of a record NBL crowd on Sunday.

But the teenage Illawarra guard has been warned it may just as easily come crashing down against the ladder-leading Sydney Kings.

The Kings' home game at Qudos Bank Arena is tipped to threaten the single game NBL attendance record of 15,336 set in 1996 - when Melbourne Tigers played South East Melbourne Magic at Rod Laver Arena.

That interest is largely due to the hype surrounding high-profile Hawks import Ball, who last weekend had 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds against Cairns Taipans to bolster his stocks.

The Hawks (2-7) have otherwise struggled this season while the Kings (8-1) are flying behind impressive guard Casper Ware and reigning NBL MVP Andrew Bogut.

Two-time Olympian Mark Worthington, who has coached and commentated since his final NBL game in 2017, said the stage was set for "outstanding" 18-year-old Ball to prove himself.

"Ball had his coming out party last week against Cairns but the Kings are a different beast," Worthington said.

"(Hawks coach) Matt Flinn will no doubt talk up the big brother against little brother battle, but this big brother has already been to college and come back and he's bigger, stronger and smarter."

Worthington, who played against Ware in the final year of his career, said Ball's ability to defend his fellow Californian but still produce offensively could convince NBA teams he was worthy of the top overall draft selection.

"Casper's the best two-way guard in the league, then you're facing Bogut at the rim so, with that in mind, this could be Ball's statement game," he said.

"And I know they're saying Ball will stay in the NBL, but you'd think if he can prove himself against the Kings it would only mean he heads back to the States early with his stocks high.

"Ball knew there'd be queries on his defence playing against seasoned pros but he's been better than advertised in that area and his basketball IQ is just outstanding."

Worthington said coach Will Weaver should take a lot of the credit for the Kings' dominant form.

"I love watching him coach; he's a basketball genius but has that emotional connect that means players love playing for him," he said.