It’s February and the Ball family’s European traveling party funnels into a private area of Bounce Cafe’s Old Street location in London. LaMelo and his maternal grandmother, Noni, spar on one of the bar’s myriad multicolored ping pong tables. Brand manager Alan Foster scrolls through emails flooded with local media requests. A FaceTime call from the boys’ agent, Harrison Gaines, pings LaVar’s phone.

The NBA draft process is around the corner, and crafting a plan for LiAngelo to hear his name called on June 21 is imperative. Maneuvering the pre-draft landscape after facing primarily second-division talent in Lithuania, though, can prove daunting. “There’s this thing called the Pro Basketball Combine,” Gaines informs LaVar. It’s essentially a cheat code, a main stage NBA audition even without earning a coveted invite to the league’s Draft Combine in Chicago. “And a lot of NBA teams go to that. So that’d be a good chance for him to play in front of every single team,” Gaines says. LaVar’s face stretches into a toothy smile. The audacious plan for another son to shake Adam Silver’s hand is in motion. “Let’s do that,” he says.

The second annual Professional Basketball Combine tips off on May 22, featuring 23 other draft hopeful players in addition to Ball. For some, it may help render their NBA dream into a reality. For others, it could cement a lucrative contract overseas. Regardless of the outcome, each athletes’ opportunity stems from the collective brainchild of two 20-something friends who met by happenstance at a summer internship four years ago.

READ FULL STORY HERE:How a Summer Internship Spawned the Newest Venue for NBA Hopefuls

SOURCE: Sports Illustrated