GLOBAL basketball sensation LaMelo Ball will headline the first major sporting event for Ballarat Sports and Events Centre.
National Basketball League club Melbourne United has confirmed on Thursday afternoon it would host Illawarra Hawks, and their biggest-ever recruit, at Ballarat's new indoor stadium for an exhibition match on September 13.
The match is expected to be a sell-out for the 3000-seat showcourt.
LaMelo Ball is touted as one of the most publicised high-school basketballers and projected top picks for the 2020 National Basketball Association draft. The 17-year-old created major shockwaves in the United States the past month by announcing he would forgo the American collegiate system to play professional basketball in Australia.
He arrives in Woolongong to join the Hawks next month.
Ball features in a family reality show Ball in the Family with older brother and NBA player Lonzo Ball, who was traded from Los Angeles Lakers to New Orleans Pelicans earlier this month. LaMelo will arrive in Australia with almost five million Instagram followers, eclipsing the Hawks' 18,000-strong base on the social media platform.
Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh announced the blockbuster match at the BSEC on Thursday afternoon. Cr McIntosh said the match was secured as part of Basketball Ballarat's strategic partnership with the City of Ballarat and would provide the ideal test event for the new stadium.
BSEC opens for community competition next week, starting with mixed netball on Sunday.
Click on the photo below to read what retired Australian Diamond Julie Corletto thinks of BSEC
The NBL exhibition match will hit the floor ahead of the week-long Australian under-14 club championship, which is expected to deliver more than 17,000 bed night bookings for teams and families to Ballarat.
Melbourne United has long been a strong supporter for the BSEC project. United has stepped out for pre-season matches in Ballarat at the Minerdome since 2015.
United finished NBL runner-up last season and will return with Olympian Chris Goulding and Ballarat Miner Sam Short.
Ballarat also has strong ties to the Hawks. Miners coach Brendan Joyce led the then-Wollongong Hawks to the club's first NBL title in 2001, Miners' championship player Eric Cooks is a Hawks assistant coach and Hawk veteran Tim Coenraad has played a couple of seasons with the Miners.
Basketball Ballarat chief Peter Eddy said involvement with national level programs such as Melbourne United, along with the support of Basketball Australia and Basketball Victoria, helped support the vision for the stadium for the community, player pathways and in attracting major events for the region.
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