NBL chasing five-star Isaiah Todd as its Next Star

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Australia's National Basketball League wants five-star forward Isaiah Todd to be the next LaMelo Ball or RJ Hampton.

After it was announced that Todd had decommitted from Michigan basketball to turn professional, the NBL confirmed that it is in discussions with the 6-foot-9 power forward, who is ranked No. 13 in the ESPN 100 for the 2020 NBA draft class.

Since its inception in 2018, the NBL's Next Stars Program, through which the league adds extra roster spots for NBA-draft-eligible players, has attracted several high-profile NBA prospects, including Ball, Hampton and Didi Louzada. Ball and Hampton are expected to be first-round draftees this year, and Louzada was drafted No. 35 by the Atlanta Hawks last year before joining the NBL for one season.

The NBL confirmed to ESPN that it is in talks with Todd. However, ongoing travel restrictions and worldwide uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic mean that the league has so far been unable to advance discussions with Todd.

"There's a number of conversations ongoing with overseas players about the prospect [of] joining the Next Stars Program, and obviously those conversations have been somewhat complicated by recent events," NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger told ESPN. "We don't know what immigration constraints are going to be in place when we begin our season. ... There [are] a lot of unknowns.

"But certainly Isaiah's camp have been in touch with the league and a number of teams, and we've had conversations with his representatives, but it hasn't yet progressed to a conversation with him [directly]. I'm not sure if clubs have had direct contact with him.

"I do understand Isaiah is very interested in Australia and the NBL but everyone has to make decisions that are in their best interests for his career and well-being. I don't think anyone -- ourselves, his family or agents -- are sufficiently well informed at the moment to be making those decisions as to what will best improve his draft stocks.

"And the objective of Next Stars Program is, first and foremost, giving the player the very best opportunity to be drafted as high as possible and be the best versions of themselves they can be. If I was to contract him now and he was to end up sitting on his couch next season, I wouldn't be fulfilling my duties to him, and we wouldn't be getting value out of it. So it's a bit preemptive, but the conversations are still ongoing, and as soon as we have more clarity, we want to be in a position to act swiftly."

The Next Stars Program has proven to be a huge boon for the league, with attendance, TV viewership and global interest all skyrocketing thanks to the impact of the athletes recruited. Loeliger said it was an obvious decision to continue the recruitment of overseas talent.

"The success of LaMelo, Didi and RJ last season was nothing short of stratospheric, so we're very, very keen to replicate it," he said. "We're just keeping our fingers crossed that circumstances will allow us to do it. We're confident it will, but it'd be a big decision at the moment for the parents of a 17- or 18-year-old to say, 'Let's pack up our son and send him to the other side of the world' in the current climate. So we have to let things play out and be prepared to act when we can."

Todd, 18, who attended Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina, is described by ESPN's scouting report as "highly skilled for his age and size, with a super soft touch and high and compact release."

Loeliger said it is more than just talent that makes Todd an appealing NBL prospect.

"He is an athletic, intuitive young gentleman with significant upside," he said. "Everyone can see the talent, but ... if you look at what questions need to be answered by scouts and GMs, it's whether or not he can fit into a structured, professional environment. Everyone knows he can play basketball, but can he fit into a disciplined regime? That's what we like about his game."