'We own the team': LaMelo Ball's stunning move to buy Illawarra Hawks

LaMelo Ball, who played for the Illawarra Hawks last season and will declare for the 2020 NBA draft, has announced his purchase of the NBL franchise. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Australian NBL team the Illawarra Hawks have been bought by their star recruit LaMelo Ball and his business manager, Jermaine Jackson, according to media reports.

"We own the team," Jackson told ESPN on Thursday.

"It's a done deal."

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Earlier this week, the NBL had been on stand-by to take over the licence of the Hawks following the reported collapse of Simon Stratford's ownership of the club.

Stratford formerly held a minority share but took full ownership in February 2018 after telecommunications entrepreneur James Spenceley sold his 51 per cent stake.

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger announced on Tuesday they were committed to the club remaining in the competition.

NBA prospect Ball steps in to purchase Illawarra Hawks

But it now appears point guard Ball, who moved to Australia in August as part of the league's Next Stars initiative, has stepped in to buy the franchise, although the club have yet to comment.

Jackson, who spent five years in the NBA, said it was because financial issues were impacting on the team that they decided to purchase it.

"They opened their arms to him," Jackson said.

"They made us feel like we are at home.When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, 'Let's own the team.'

"He is going to be locked into his NBA career, but we are going to hire the right people to oversee everything. He wants to create the best basketball program possible for that community there."

In 12 games with the Hawks, Ball has averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists, lifting his NBA draft stock to the point that he's considered a top-five pick by most draftniks.

ESPN ranks Ball No.2, and he's the top-ranked player in the draft by others.

Ball is the brother of Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball and is training for the draft in California.

No official word from NBL about approval of sale to LaMelo Ball

On Friday morning the NBL sent out an official memo, stressing that the sale of the Illawarra Hawks to LaMelo Ball hadn’t yet made any application to transfer to license of the team to himself.

“The league can confirm LaMelo Ball and his management had discussions about being involved with the club while he was playing in the NBL last season,” their statement read.

“At this point we are continuing to work with current licence holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL.

“The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date. The NBL has no further comment at this stage.”