Teams aren’t willing to play against the SPIRE Institute and their latest roster addition LaMelo Ball for good reason: His pro experience.
La Lumiere canceled their upcoming game on Tuesday against SPIRE, releasing a statement saying they “are not comfortable” playing high school students against someone who’s played at the professional level.
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) November 10, 2018
The youngest Ball brother played pro ball in Lithuania and more recently, appeared in his dad’s JBA league before returning to the U.S. high school circuit last week.
La Lumiere wasn’t the only team to cancel their upcoming match against SPIRE, as Oak Hill Academy canceled a December match against LaMelo. Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith told the Washington Post he wouldn’t risk his own player’s eligibility by playing against Ball.
“I just told them, ‘We can’t jeopardize our school and our association and our affiliation with conferences,” Smith said. “They understood. I said we can play them if [Ball] doesn’t play, but they weren’t willing to do that.”
Ball’s eligibility is tricky. He’s got pro experience. But, should that deem him ineligible? Justin Brantley, SPIRE’s associate academy director, told the Washington Post Ball never was compensated in either league, which keeps him eligible in high school. Still, the stance some teams are taking by canceling games is understandable.
Serious questions remain about Ball’s eligibility and until there’s a clear answer, there’s no need for teams to risk future issues by stepping on the court alongside him.