Weaver predicts influx of NBA prospects

Matt Encarnacion
Import Lamelo Ball is forging a trail for more young NBA prospects to head to the NBL first

Sydney NBL coach Will Weaver predicts a host of future NBA prospects to arrive on Australian shores after the success of LaMelo Ball.

A record crowd of 17,513 converged on Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena to watch Ball and Illawarra go down fighting on Sunday against the Kings.

The figure eclipsed the previous mark of 17,143 in 1999 which was for a double-header.

But the majority of fans arrived to catch a glimpse of Ball, an 18-year-old point guard projected as a possible No.1 draft pick in next year's NBA draft.

And the brother of New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo Ball delivered for the Sydneysiders, scoring 16 points with eight rebounds and six assists.

Weaver praised LaMelo Ball for bouncing back after a rough first half against the Kings.

"I like that we made him work. 16 points on 19 shots is good. But resilience for a young man ... we all know how tough the league is," Weaver said.

"Everybody's getting better and I think one of the best parts about youth is how much faster you get better, (compared with) those of us that aren't in that category.

"What's not to like? Composed, unselfish. I'm excited to see where he heads."

Ball is one of three American imports to bypass college and join the league's Next Stars program. The others are RJ Hampton and Terry Armstrong.

Ball and Hampton are widely tipped to be picked in the top five.

Asked whether he expected more high school talents to follow in Ball's footsteps, Weaver said: "Hell yeah. Absolutely. Why wouldn't you?

"The league deserves credit for it but I take my hat off to these guys.

"These guys that are forging this trail and moving away from friends and family, and putting their faith in our league, our teams, our staffs and their teammates.

"It's brave and smart and forward thinking. They're going to reap the rewards of it.

"If you don't think that LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton and Terry and Didi (Louzada) are going to be better for this experience, you don't see it the same way."