LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball will head across the Atlantic into the Lithuanian countryside in a few weeks, and Andrew Keh of the New York Times visited Prienai to get a sense of what they’re getting themselves into. He found a small town with Ball family fever, where the pizza joints are blaring about their forthcoming arrival.
The story gets to the bottom of the famous anecdote about Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas coach Virginijus Seskus selling meat out of his car, but the most revealing nugget is about how the team popped up on the Ball family’s radar. It was extremely unofficial:
At around 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, Erikas Kirvelaitis, a 21-year-old basketball journalist in Lithuania, sent an unsolicited question via Twitter to Harrison Gaines, a sports agent in Los Angeles with two semifamous teenage clients: Would LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, by any chance, be interested in playing professional basketball in Prienai?
Kirvelaitis had been hired only a few months earlier to do part-time communications work for Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas, a small club here in the Lithuanian basketball league. His bosses did not know at first about his Twitter gambit. It was a shot the dark, anyway.
But to Kirvelaitis’s amazement, Gaines wrote back asking for more information. And less than a week later, the young Americans were signing contracts to begin their professional careers in this unassuming town nearly 6,000 miles from home.
This anecdote sure does not make it seem like hordes of European clubs were clamoring to sign LiAngelo and LaMelo! I hope they enjoy the devil museum.