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6 things to know about the Ball brothers’ next international adventure

Chino Hills basketball standouts — and Sons Two and Three of one-man sports-promotion machine LaVar Ball — LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball will play pro basketball with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, team general manager Virginijus Seskus and Ball family agent Harrison Gaines made official Monday.
Yes, you read that right. Lithuania.
The Ball family saga — which includes the infamous international shoplifting incident in China that even looped in President Trump, who wound up in a Twitter skirmish with Ball — is taking another international turn. Sure, you’ve got lots of questions. Here are a few answers.
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, left, LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill appear Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, at a press conference where they apologized for shoplifting in China and thanked President Trump for helping in their release. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)
1. Lithuania? Really? Where is that?
Sure, you passed high school geography, so you already knew — or you swiftly Googled it — but, officially: The Republic of Lithuania is one of three major countries that border the Baltic Sea, not so far from Russia. It is bordered by Latvia, Belarus and Poland and sits across the Baltic from Sweden.
The nearly 3 million people there speak, not surprisingly, Lithuanian. Classes in the language were likely not offered as electives at Chino Hills High, however.
The current nation emerged over the centuries from formerly warring Baltic tribes who merged to share a homeland, sort of like the Lakers and Clippers of their era.
2. Will the Balls be the best players in the nation?
Not by a longshot (at least not at first). LiAngelo, 19,  and 16-year-old LaMelo — the younger brothers of Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard and No. 2 NBA draft pick Lonzo — are promising, but they’re just kids.
LaMelo Ball of Big Baller Brand grassroots boys basketball team looks for room to drive against Sacramento’s Play Hard Play Smart during action Thursday in the adidas Summer Championship at the Cashman Center arena in Las Vegas. (Jeffrey Parenti/The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Neither has played a minute in a real college game. LiAngelo withdrew from UCLA after he was suspended while on tour with the Bruins in China before Trump said he cut a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping to send him and two teammates — labeled the “knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing” by presidential Chief of Staff John Kelly —  on a flight back home.
And La Melo is only a junior in high school.
According to ESPN, Vytautas plays in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, which draws strong foreign talent and is quite competitive, by international standards.
The Balls may see more playing time on the franchise’s entry in the less-competitive Baltic League, however.
3. Why so far away?
Well, hardened basketball fans know this isn’t as unsual a trip as it may seem. Once you’re out of college basketball — including more conventional exits, like graduation — the most viable option for players is often international play.
Lithuania is a basketball-crazy place and has long been a hotspot for the international game, much like Argentina, Greece and Italy. If the Balls can make it big there, they might just punch their ticket to anywhere.
Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Philadelphia. The Lakers won 107-104 and Ball player perhaps hisbest game of the season. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
4. What about the NBA?
LiAngelo will be eligible for next year’s pro draft, but not LaMelo. But neither is considered NBA-ready.
LaMelo — who once scored 92 points in a Chino Hills game — is thought to have a greater upside, however, than his older brother.
Meanwhile, biggest brother Lonzo has been a mixed success with in the pro game after a stellar freshman year at UCLA. While he’s snagged the honor of becoming the youngest player ever to record an NBA triple-double (more than 10 points, rebounds and assists in the same game), some consider him a disappointment.
5. But LaMelo’s just 16! Is he the youngest pro ever?
Lonzo’s Big Ball Brand company claims he’ll be the youngest American basketball player to get paid to play overseas. But BBB has been known to hyperbolize.
There have been younger pro players, however. Freddy Adu played in a Major League Soccer game at age 14. And Joe Nuxhall pitched in a major league baseball game at age 15.
President Donald Trump reportedly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, to help resolve the shoplifting case involving three UCLA basketball players. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)
6. Has Trump tweeted?
Not yet. Stay tuned.
The Associated Press and New York Times contributed to this report. 
Source: Oc Register

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