Noi does not rate NBA-bound LaMelo
Millions on social media are buying into the LaMelo Ball hype but Cairns Taipans rookie Kouat Noi is not one of them.
Ahead of their second meeting of the NBL season, the 22-year-old has lit the fuse for Saturday night by declaring Ball, considered a lock to go top five in next year's NBA draft, was not as good as the hype machine around him says.
The brother of NBA point guard Lonzo has delivered plenty of shares, retweets and traffic online but for the Illawarra Hawks, it has not translated to wins, sitting at the foot of the table with a 1-7 record.
Noi is aiming to use the 2019-20 NBL season as a springboard into the NBA, just like Ball is.
"I believe he's not all that hype. I truly believes there is no rookie in the NBL that can guard me," Noi said.
"I do not think he is as good as he is, he is obviously a good basketball player, but everything he does goes viral.
"That does not matter to me.
"I want to go to the NBA, so does he, as long as we make it to that goal, it will be fine."
Ball has averaged just over 13 points a game to go with six assists so far in his Australian career.
Retired Taipans legend Alex Loughton has liked what he has seen from Ball so far this season but has question marks over the teenager.
"He has shown flashes of brilliance, but at the same time team defence concepts have not been instilled in his progression through juniors," Loughton said.
"In the NBA you can't be waiting in the key on the split line to catch a rolling big so maybe it doesn't matter that he does not know team defence rules.
"He is way above the level of play that Terrance Ferguson had for Adelaide yet Ferguson has started some games for OKC this year.
"Ball is on a trajectory to top five pick in the draft so catching him in action is a must. "Taipans will look to exploit him on lack of strength and inability to get around screens at a really high success rate."
The Basketball Show host and Sydney Kings legend Shane Heal this week said he would be surprised if Ball finished the season with the Hawks, likely to head back to the USA before Christmas.
For the fifth year in a row, the Taipans will suit up in special edition "black out" uniforms on Saturday night which will then be auctioned immediately post-game.
The charity match raises money and awareness for the Integrated Family and Youth Services organisation.
NBL ROUND 6
Illawarra Hawks v Cairns Taipans
When: Saturday, 7pm, Cairns Convention Centre
Likely Taipans starters: Majok Deng, DJ Newbill, Kouat Noi, Scott Machado, Cameron Oliver
Coach: Mike Kelly
Hawks starters: Todd Blanchfield, Andrew Ogilvy, Tim Coenraad, Daniel Grida, LaMelo Ball
Coach: Matt Flinn
Ladbrokes odds: Taipans $1.33, Hawks $3.35