LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball sign 1-year pro deals with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas

ByAdrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony ESPN logo
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball have reached an agreement to sign professional basketball deals with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, the team's coach/GMVirginijus Seskus and Ball family agent Harrison Gaines told ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

After ESPN reported on the seriousness of the talks between the Ball brothers and the European team on Monday afternoon, the two sides finalized the agreement hours later.

The franchise is hoping the Ball brothers -- and father LaVar -- can be a publicity boon to the fledgling organization. There are already grave concerns among those familiar with both the teenage Americans and European team about whether the players can fit into Vytautas on any level.

LiAngelo and LaMelo are the younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakersrookie guard Lonzo Ball. LiAngelo withdrew fromUCLAafter the basketball team suspended him indefinitely following a shoplifting incident on the Bruins' tour of China. LaVar said he would have both LiAngelo and LaMelo bypass college basketball and planned to search out pro jobs overseas. LaMelo was a junior in high school but dropped out.

Vytautas plays in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, but it is unlikely the Ball brothers would see significant playing time in that league. Vytautas also plays in the lesser competitive Baltic League, where the teenagers could see more playing time. The team has discussed a role of 20 to 25 minutes a game apiece in the Baltic League, a source told ESPN.

Prienu Vytautas, or BC Prienai as it's often called, is a low-level club from a small, non-English speaking village of roughly 10,000 people in southern Lithuania. The team has been grappling with financial issues and started the season losing eight of its first 12 games in the Lithuanian league.

The team is 4-1 in the Baltic League, its lone loss coming on a forfeiture. The game was abandoned with three minutes to go tied at 65 after the coach was ejected due to some questionable calls.

Vytautas has sparingly signed American players in the past decade, the only one being formerVanderbiltguard Brad Tinsley. He left the team after a month.

The club plays in a 1,700-seat arena; 500 of those seats are reserved for team sponsors and their friends. Tickets cost around 5 euros.

The team has no general manager and doesn't practice regularly due to the poor financial situation.

Currently, the team's best player is likely the coach's son, Edvinas Seskus, who was considered a huge prospect as a teenager but didn't develop as expected, partially due to injuries.

The coach's other son, Domantas, also played for the team for four years, but he left this season to sign in the French fourth division.

LaMelo, a 16-year-old combination guard, is considered more talented than his older brother LiAngelo. At 6-foot-3, he has shot-making ability, creativity as a ball handler and flashes as a facilitator. He shows potential as a shooter despite unorthodox mechanics, regularly pulling up from near half court at the prep level.

LaMelo has the potential to play in the NBA someday, especially if he were on a more traditional development path. Even so, his shot selection is questionable and he has struggled to impact winning. LaMelo is a career 30 percent 3-point shooter, according to Krossover data (42 games and 605 attempts).

LiAngelo, 19, is a thick-framed, 6-foot-5 player who offers little value outside of occasional spot-up shooting. He projected as a mid-major college player out of high school and wasn't expected to be in UCLA's regular rotation. He would be expected to struggle to add any value in the Lithuanian or Baltic leagues. He is a career 32 percent 3-point shooter on 590 attempts, according to Krossover data. LiAngelo is a limited ball handler and defender, and plays strictly below the rim.

Lithuania is a basketball-crazed country where players pride themselves on their advanced feel for the game and discipline. LaMelo's erratic style of play could well shock coaches and players alike in the Baltic League. On the defensive end, he will also need to make major improvements to fit into the style of play in Lithuania with hopes to stay on the floor.

ESPN NBA Draft analyst Mike Schmitz contributed to this report.

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