ILLAWARRA general manager Mat Campbell says the club sought the opinion of three different specialists before ultimately pulling the pin on LaMelo Ball's stint with the club.
Ball hasn't played since notching consecutive triple-doubles in late November after suffering foot soreness that was initially tipped to see him sidelined for four weeks.
Scans on Thursday revealed the bone bruising the 18-year-old picked up had subsided but, with only six games remaining for the Hawks, Campbell said it was in the interests of all parties to call time.
"It is disappointing, we were hopeful that he would return to play," Campbell said.
"That was always the plan from day one but, from our end, we had three different doctors look at it, including our club doctor and we also sought the opinion of [renowned foot surgeon] Martin Sullivan.
"Ultimately their call was that it was bone bruising that required rest. We saw him again [on Thursday] and the foot is 100 per cent healed, which is great, but the process now is about loading it.
"That load factor, on the back of how long it would take him to get back up to game fitness, ultimately means he's not going to make it back before the end of the season."
The comments come in response to questions over the severity of the injury, with some suggesting it was exaggerated with Ball's Draft stock high on the back of triple-double efforts.
Campbell admitted the 2020 Draft, where Ball's projected to be a top-three pick, was a factor in the decision, but insists he never doubted the young star's commitment to the club.
"We're totally understanding of [Draft concerns], this was always a part of a pathway opportunity to get to his goal which was being the No. 1 Draft pick," Campbell said.
"This is part of the goal and then playing in the NBA. Being the No. 1 Draft pick is still up in the air but playing in the NBA is well and truly conceivable. We always knew this was a pathway opportunity for him.
"We would've loved to see him back on the floor but the fact we were able to get it early enough in just the bone bruising stage is a real testament to our medical team.
"Given his profile we were probably more cautious in getting it all right, that's why we had three different doctors look at it. It's a shame, we would've love to see him on the floor.
"We were really starting to see him develop as a player, he had back to back triple-doubles right before he got injured. He would've certainly helped us on the floor."
Ball was the highest profile victim of a luckless campaign on the injury front for the Hawks, with Josh Boone, AJ Ogilvy, Sam Froling and Dave Andersen all spending time in a crowded injury ward.
Ball will continue his rehab in Wollongong until the conclusion of the Hawks campaign and, despite an unfortunate end, Campbell said the club's first Next Star experience was a positive one.
"We've definitely learned some things, not just about the Next Star opportunity, we've also learned about handling new imports who come to our club," Campbell said.
"There's no doubt adding such a high profile athlete with such a following was a challenge from a club point of view given our resource levels compared to other clubs, but an experience all our staff have been appreciative of.
"I think our staff's handled it extremely well and the whole process has been a great one for everyone."