PRIENAI, Lithuania — In a packed gym of about 1,500 people in the tiny Lithuanian town of Prienai, the Ball brothers — LiAngelo and LaMelo — combined to score 29 points in their professional basketball debut.
With parents LaVar and Tina Ball sitting courtside, 19-year-old LiAngelo scored 19 points, and his younger brother, LaMelo, finished with 10 and had several no-look assists to lead Prienai Vytautas to a 90-80 victory over Zalgiris’ second team.
“I did all right,” LiAngelo said. “I’m glad we won, but I could do better.”
Vytautas, a low-budget team that withdrew from the Baltic league days after the brothers joined the team, announced it would form the Big Baller Brand Challenge, a series of five “friendly” games. Vytautas normally plays in both the Lithuanian and Baltic leagues, with the Baltic featuring lower-level competition that also involves teams from Estonia and Latvia.
Zalgiris’ second-division team featured the top under-18 players from the elite program in Lithuania. While LiAngelo acknowledged that he “wasn’t expecting [the game] to be so physical,” LaMelo said he didn’t think there was a big difference from American basketball.
“Not a lot,” LaMelo said. “Just another game to me.”
Tuesday night’s game was broadcast live on Facebook and had more than 120,000 viewers at times.
“As long as we [are] winning and playing like this, this is gonna be fun,” LaVar said.
LiAngelo started and struggled with his shot in the first half, making just 2 of 9 shots before the break. He was far more efficient coming off the bench in the second half, finishing 8-for-19 from the field, while playing much of the time with his 16-year-old brother on the floor.
LaMelo came off the bench in the first half and didn’t waste any time before misfiring on a 3-pointer from NBA range and getting a few assists, including one to his brother.
In the second half, just seconds after checking in with 4:30 left in the third quarter, LaMelo took another deep 3, which barely grazed the rim. On the next possession, he drove the left baseline and wound up making an acrobatic basket on a reverse layup. He finished 4-for-10 from the field with nine assists and six turnovers.
“I think I passed, led and played defense well,” LaMelo said. “My shooting was off, but we won. That was the main thing.”
The team’s next game is Saturday night in a Lithuanian league contest at Lietkabelis, but it’s unclear how much playing time the Ball brothers will receive since the game counts in the standings.