The return of LaMelo Ball to high school basketball raises questions about how Ball, who has played in two professional teams, can become an amateur once again and is the youngest of Big Baller Brand (BBB) CEO of LaVar Ball three sons can play NCAA college basketball once he finished high school. These questions were triggered by Ball's newly announced intention to immediately register at SPIRE Institute, a private high school in Geneva, Ohio.
Unusual basketball trip
Ball, 17, has lived a basketball life from an early age. His eldest brother, Lonzo, is the second year player at the Los Angeles Lakers while his middle brother, Li Angelo, plays for the Los Angeles Ballers of Junior Basketball Association (JBA). BBB sponsors JBA, which features LaVar Ball as its commissioner and director.
Recently last year, basketball travel seems quite conventional. Between 2015 and 2017, Ball is a student at Chino Hills High School (California) and a highly respected basketball prospect. Ranked by ESPN as the seventh best high school recruit for its class, Ball is set to follow in the footsteps of his brothers by committing to join UCLA in the autumn of 2019.
For several reasons, Ball's plan changed radically in the fall of 2017. First, as explained below, Ball became associated with the BBB sneaker agreement which raised doubts about whether he would still meet the NCAA requirements. Second, LaVar Ball expressed displeasure with the change of coach at Chino Hills. Dennis Latimore replaces Steve Baik, including LaVar Ball arguing "I don't like it one bit." In December 2017, LaMelo Ball made a decision (no doubt the heavy influence of his father) to leave secondary school and become a professional. Ball hired an agent, Harrison Gaines, who negotiated a work contract for Ball. The point guard was signed with Vytautas Prienai – Birštonas from the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) and Baltic Basketball League (BBL). Ball played eight games for Vytautas before returning to the US to sign another contract with Ballers of the JBA. Between the regular season and the playoffs, Ball plays 11 matches for Ballers, averaging 40 points per game.
The (sort of) return of Ball to high school amateurism
Ball's professional basketball career will rest for the next year. He has joined the SPIRE Institute and is expected to play there soon after next week. SPIRE Institute is connected to SPIRE Academy, which, according to its website, "provides the feel of a traditional class with a student and teacher ratio of 12: 1" and offers a variety of housing and online courses "to accommodate each individual student-athlete's needs. "Tuition fees for secondary school students are quite steep: $ 52,000 to $ 58,000, which includes room and meals, and roughly the same price paid by boarding students at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The ball has been tweeted that he intended to complete his high school diploma by taking a course at SPIRE.
SPIRE is not registered as a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), the governing body of athletic programs in Ohio. This is important because OHSAA conditions student-athlete eligibility in student athletes who meet certain conditions.
It does not appear that Ball will be able to fulfill all OHSAA conditions.
This is seen by reviewing OHSAA Bylaw 4, which emphasizes that athletes who meet the requirements must be amateur and not professional. Under Bylaw 4, amateur status is lost if student-athletes compete for money or other rewards. Correspondingly, any reimbursement for travel, meals or lodging cannot be "conditioned on the completion or performance of an individual or team or given on an incentive basis and such expenditure is given to all participants in the competition." Bylaw 4 also states that high school athletes lose amateur status if they "make use of" their fame by accepting money, merchandise, or value services. "Meanwhile, Bylaw 4 makes it clear that" payments are broadly defined to include "direct or indirect remuneration, gratuities or other economic benefits either now or in the future, or distribution or distribution of surpluses (bonuses, acceptance of games, etc.). "The soccer ball deal and pro contract will be the main obstacles.
Other provisions of Bylaw 4 will be very problematic for Ball. Under Bylaw 4, amateur status is wasted if student-athletes "sign contracts or make any commitments to playing professional athletics, regardless of legal validity or payment received. "In a comment to ESPN, Justin Brantley, director of the SPIRE association academy, stated his understanding that, despite signing two employment contracts to play professional basketball, Ball was somehow not paid according to the contract. Even if such an account is accurate, Ball will still appear short for Bylaw 4's purpose. This contemplates that a professional service contract signed, regardless of the accompanying payment, is a feasibility-forfeiting event. The ball must convince OHSAA that Bylaw 4 is intended to regulate actions by student-athletes when they play in high school and not at the previous time (or, in the case of Ball, the time between two school assignments in high school).
However, because SPIRE is not regulated by OHSAA, Bylaw 4 is not at issue. SPIRE can determine its own eligibility rules, provided that it complies with the rules governing the competitor's school. The SPIRE basketball team did not seem to compete at the OHSAA conference. Likewise, the 2018-19 team's schedule features games and tournament participation in various parts of the country. For example, during Thanksgiving, it will be played at the Factory Skill Tournament in Atlanta. Fast forward up to a week before Christmas and SPIRE will travel to Las Vegas to play at the Tarkanian Classic. SPIRE schedules are unusual for private schools that openly emphasize the mission of preparing elite athletes for athletic excellence. The IMG Academy in Florida also features a number of basketball games outside the state and are designed to maximize the chances of students becoming division I stars and the possibility of pro and Olympic athletes.
It is not surprising that SPIRE will register the Ball. Although Ball's father is clearly controversial, Bola seems to be a pro-legitimate prospect that will bring star power directly to the program. The signing also provided a constant infusion of media attention for schools. This attention can lead to more applications from prospective students and interests from elite athletes.
But there is a risk for SPIRE in attaching themselves to Ball and his family. Already one of the scheduled SPIRE opponents, La Lumiere High School (La Porte, Indiana), has canceled the November 13 match against SPIRE. The school has announced its decision on the SPIRE account using pro players, namely, Ball. If another school reacts the same, SPIRE may need to review its decision to play Ball.
The Ball Mission is not possible for NCAA eligibility
Ball said he wanted to play as a freshman at a "top" college in 201-2020 and had named North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State as possible options. Overall, Ball only plans to spend a year in college before declaring himself eligible for the NBA draft 2020.
The problem with Ball's lecture plan is that Bola seems to have lost its NCAA worthiness. The NCAA can see at least three events as feasibility.
First, and as explained before The Crossover, Ball in 2017 designed the BBB sneaker named after it. BBB described it as "the first signature shoe launched by high school basketball players," MELLO BALL 1 or MB1 retail on the BBB website for $ 395. If the Ball has been paid or compensated for its involvement in MB1, he will find it difficult to comply with Article 12 of the NCAA Division Handbook. Article 12 instructs that "an individual loses amateur status and thus does not qualify for competition between colleges in certain sports if the individual (a) uses his athletic skills (directly or indirectly) to pay in any form in the sport; [or] (b) accept payment promises even if the salary must be received after the completion of athletic participation between colleges. "
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On the other hand, Article 12 contains exceptions when paying before college is for "modeling" and "other related non-athletic promotional activities." For that reason, Ball is something of a celebrity, especially with his family's involvement in the reality series Facebook. However, modeling exceptions only apply when the participation of athletes is "independent of athletic abilities" and athletes "do not support commercial products." Given that MB1 is basketball shoes and given that its trade name carries implicit support from the Ball, modeling exceptions might not work for Ball.
The second feasibility-forfeiting event is that Ball hired a basketball agent in 2017. This step seems to collide with Article 12, which instructs that an athlete "who retains an agent will lose amateur status." In response, Ball may emphasize that in August 2018 The NCAA announced a series of changes related to the use of agents for basketball players. One change that is relevant to high school basketball players is that, provided the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) agree to the following arrangements, players who have been identified as "elite senior prospects" by US basketball can be represented by agents. Agents can be maintained starting July 1 before the start of their senior year in high school. Unfortunately for Ball, NBA and NBPA it hasn't acted on this arrangement – the "one-and-done" age rules will probably remain in effect until 2022 or 2023 – and even if they have them, Ball won't obey the rule language: he hires an agent before July 1, his senior year in high school.
As for the third eligibility event, it contains two parts: The ball signs a separate employment contract with two professional basketball teams. Even if the Ball is not paid for by the teams (which is logically difficult to accept given that the work contract contemplates the exchange of work in return for something of value), the team itself is a professional team. For that reason, Article 12 once again presents the issue of eligibility for Ball. Article 12 states that a student-athlete does not qualify for inter-college athletes in sports if he "has competed in a professional team in that sport."
The ball will only be able to overcome this language if it succeeds in calling an exception for Article 12. One exception is if Ball can prove that he is not paid a salary and does not "receive more than the actual cost and is required to participate" in each player. two professional teams. The NCAA defines "actual and necessary costs" to include the following:
(c) Clothing, equipment and supplies;
(d) Training and instruction;
(e) Health / medical insurance;
(f) Transportation (costs to and from practice and competition, transportation costs from home to the place of training / training at the beginning of the season / preparation for an event and from the training / practice / event to home at the end of the season / event);
(g) Medical treatment and physical therapy;
(h) Use of facilities;
(i) Entrance fees; and
(j) Other reasonable expenses.
The NCAA further explained that actual and necessary expenditures were "can be given only if the expenditure is for competition on a team or in a particular event or for practices that are directly related to the competition. . . the value of these fees must be commensurate with
fair market value of the same goods and services in the region where these costs are provided and may not be excessive. "
The NCAA will clearly be skeptical about Ball's clear claim that his contract does not reflect on salaries or that he strangely refuses to accept agreed payments. The NCAA will definitely demand to review the two signed employment contracts and talk to Ball agent about them. The NCAA will also need more details from LaVar Ball, whose ownership of BBB makes it difficult for her child to work at JBA owned by BBB. For this reason, the NCAA will demand to know how and when LaVar transfers funds and other items to LaMelo, and whether LaVar has made an appointment to pay LaMelo. Any promises for future payments can be interpreted as payments deferred by the company. Likewise, the NCAA may demand written statements from Vytautas officials about the exact nature of Ball's work with the team. Keep in mind, responsibility will be at LaMelo Ball and any college he tries to attend to convince the NCAA to assume he is eligible.
Ball may also consider the exception of "professional players as team members" for Article 12. This exception states that Ball can play with pro players as long as the pro is not paid for by a team or league. To illustrate, if Ball has played in a recreational summer basketball league or pickup with a team featuring pros and amateurs, he will have a chance. However, LKL and JBA Soccer teams are not recreational or summer ball entries: they employ professionals who might be paid to play on the team.
A more likely path for Ball after his senior year in high school is to return to the pro circle for a year. Maybe he will rejoin LiAngelo's brother at JBA. Or maybe he will make use of the new "chosen contract" G League which is worth $ 125,000 for five months of work. But pursuing NCAA basketball seems like a tough road – even for someone like Ball, who has spent the last year getting used to life on a "road that is rarely traveled."
Michael McCann is an SI legal analyst. He is also an Associate Dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law and editor and co-author of Oxford Handbook of American Sports Law and Court Judge: A Story in My Battle Against the NCAA.