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LaMelo Ball lights up NBL with breakout game

LaMelo Ball became the youngest player in NBL history to record a triple-double and emphasized his claims to be the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick in 2020.

Ball's game-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists helped Illawarra beat Cairns 114-106 in overtime Monday night at the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong, Australia.

The 18-year-old's game-tying three-pointer with six seconds remaining sent the contest to overtime with the score 99-99.

He then played his part in overtime to get the Hawks home.

"Pretty much I just believe in myself and my confidence levels is just really high, so every shot I take I feel like it's going in." Ball said. "I try to improve every day, pretty much, and just work my hardest."

Ball is on a two-year deal with Illawarra as part of the NBL's Next Stars program, which was launched in March 2018.

Under the program, the NBL contracts young overseas players -- such as Ball and New Zealand's RJ Hampton -- and fast-tracks their development to give them the best chance of being drafted into the NBA, which does not allow players straight out of high school.

Ball originally intended to play for UCLA, but concerns about NCAA eligibility rules prompted his Australian move, though an NBA clause in his contract is expected to see him depart after one season.

Illawarra coach Matt Flinn heaped further praise on Ball after a record night for the rookie.

"I think everyone saw tonight what he's capable of," Flinn said.

"We see it pretty regularly in practice when the doors are closed, but it was really nice for him to get into a flow.

"He just impacts the game in so many different ways. It's exciting to be a part of and it's also the way he brings his teammates into the game as well.

"There's so many good players in this league, but the really great ones make everyone around them better, and I think we saw tonight he can bring other people into the game."

Tim Coenraad (27 points), Sunday Dech (15), AJ Ogilvy (11) and Todd Blanchfield (10) all reached double figures for the Hawks as they recorded just their third win of the season.

DJ Newbill contributed 27 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Taipans.

Fellow U.S. import Scott Machado scored 22 for the Taipans, while Majok Deng chipped in with 19 points and six rebounds.