BALLARAT's newest sporting jewel looks set to launch its stadium show court with a blockbuster sell-out.
Basketball Ballarat is expected to this afternoon announce its first major match for Ballarat Sports and Events Centre, likely to be a pre-season match with long-time National Basketball League partner Melbourne United.
But the really big news is who United might face off against and young basketballers are already speculating on one of the biggest new names in the game; LaMelo Ball.
The 17-year-old American is the Illawarra Hawks' huge signing whose billing includes almost 5 million Instagram followers, a Kardashian-like family reality show and talk of becoming the 2020 number one draft pick for the National Basketball Association in the United States.
An NBL hit-out would reinforce Ballarat's elite sporting status, ahead of a second AFL premiership match with Western Bulldogs this season and confirmation from new A-League franchise Western United the club had been in talks to play matches at Mars Stadium.
Melbourne United has been travelling to Ballarat to fine-tune its game since 2015 and continued to show its support for the game in the region, despite chief Vince Crivelli flagging existing facilities were not feasible for a modern sporting team's need.
The NBL and state government made a show of faith in Basketball Ballarat with co-hosting duties with Bendigo for the pre-season NBL Blitz tournament. The NBL announced earlier this week the next Blitz would head to Tasmania.
The Courier reported in June Basketball Ballarat had been in talks for game time with Melbourne United ad Women's National Basketball League club Bendigo Spirit.
Ballarat Miner Jordan Lingard and Miners' junior elite team member Will Hynes say the perfect way to test the showcourt would be with a big name. Right now, that would be Hawk LaMelo Ball.
I want to see how Melo goes...it's a different game for players out here - he'll either do well or struggle.Ballarat Miner Jordan Lingard
"I want to see how Melo goes...it's a different game for players out here - he'll either do well or struggle," Lingard said. "I don't know if it will be all about himself or the team. He's a tall point guard and could be the main scorer and take a leadership role on the court."
Sixteen-year-old Hynes agreed, wanting to see up close whether Ball would measure up to the hype.
They were also keen to see New Zealand Breakers' American import RJ Hampton live.
The 18-year-old is similarly by-passing the American college system with an NBL season. Lingard follows Hampton's work-outs on Instagram.
The Courier has confirmed LaMelo Ball is due to join the Hawks in Woolongong next month and the Hawks are set for practice matches in Canberra, Tasmania, Albury and Wollongong.
The $24 million Ballarat Sports and Events Centre will open to community matches from Sunday, starting with mixed netball.
BSEC will host its first national tournament with the under-14 club championships in late September.
Basketball Ballarat last month locked in five junior state level titles for BSEC to play out the next three years.
Negotiations are also underway with Netball Victoria for major events.
Basketball Ballarat chief Peter Eddy told The Courier last month it was important to get the balance right between community sport and major events to grow all indoor sports in the region.
He said major events and tournaments were great validation for community support and the investment from City of Ballarat and state and federal governments in the BSEC project.
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