Edit Slot to 247Sports Home Slot to Kansas Jayhawks Newsletter Slot to Kansas Links KU basketball is in a vulnerable spot. It is not quite time to panic for those in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are far from crisis with…
Why the 5-star basketball recruit choice to go pro in New Zealand instead of going to college makes sense.
The problems RJ Hampton would have solved and where KU is now
Share Share R.J. Hampton skipping college basketball for the pros in New Zealand is the right move tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email R.J. Hampton didnt mince his words as he sat in an ESPN studio and announced the decision that would shape his future as one of the brightest young basketball prospects in the country.
My dream never has been to play college basketball, Hampton said. My dream was always to get to the next level and play in the NBA.
Viewers tuned into ESPN to find out where Hampton would play his college ball, with Kansas, Memphis, and Texas Tech named as the three finalists. It turns out he wont play college basketball at all. Hampton is headed to NBL, an Australia-based professional league, to play for the New Zealand Breakers. The plan is for him to spend one season there before entering the 2020 NBA Draft, where hes projected as a possible top-five overall pick.
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Hampton has been planning to accelerate his career for months. He had been set to graduate high school in 2020 and even played one weekend of grassroots ball this spring before announcing he was reclassifying to 2019. That made Hampton — considered a top-five prospect in either class — the biggest recruit available on the college hoops market. After assessing his options, Hampton decided his best move was to turn pro overseas.
The 65 guard is a shifty ball handler and explosive athlete who can create offense for himself and others. The length and quickness that makes him so hard to defend when he breaks down an opposing defense off the dribble and finishes in the paint also gives him tremendous defensive versatility. NBA scouts will keep a close eye on the development of his jump shot.
Hampton is following the path of recent top recruits like Emmanuel Mudiay, Brandon Jennings, and Terrance Ferguson who also chose to play for a paycheck overseas out of high school, but with his own twist. Each of those past players had questions about their college eligibility. Hampton is doing this because he believes the NBL will prepare him for the NBA better than college could.
After reclassifying to the 2019 class, 5-star guard RJ Hampton announced Tuesday that he will play professionally in New Zealand next season rather than playing collegiately.
It wasnt hard to find salty college fans upset that Hampton spurned their program for a year abroad when he made the decision on Tuesday. While Hampton may face a difficult adjustment to life as a pro in a new country, his decision to play in the NBL rather than the NCAA is the right one for multiple reasons.
Perhaps Hampton would have played college basketball next season if one program established itself as a great destination to showcase his talent. It never happened. As Hampton hastened the recruiting process and assessed his options, he simply didnt have an obvious choice. Lets take a look at each of his three finalists.
The Jayhawks felt like the prohibitive favorites heading into Hamptons announcement. Kansas has a talented and experienced team in place for next season that will again be among the favorites to win it all, but the roster did pose some questions. Hampton was waiting on NBA draft decisions from Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, staples in last years backcourt as freshmen. It seems likely both players will return to school, which would have meant Hampton was sharing point guard duties with Dotson and a third starting guard in Grimes who likes to operate with the ball in his hands. Add in Marcus Garrett and the backcourt in Lawrence was suddenly crowded.
Theres also the issue of what Bill Self has done for blue chip freshmen in the recent past. A five-star recruit like Cliff Alexander never developed in his one-and-done season before being held out amid eligibility concerns. Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in 2014 and Josh Jackson was the No. 4 pick in 2017, but neither showed much improvement under Self and still have major questions as NBA players. Fair or not, Self is a coach who has a reputation for putting the program ahead of the players in many regards. It may not be a coincidence this the first year Self hasnt landed a top-50 recruit on the recruiting trail.
The Tigers are an emerging powerhouse behind head coach Penny Hardaway and assistant Mike Miller. Memphis is the coolest and most interesting team in college basketball right now, but it still has a lot to prove. The Tigers havent made the NCAA tournament since 2014 and Hardaway will have to answer questions about his coaching acumen. While Memphis does have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, it also has a lot of talented players to keep happy who also want to showcase their talent for the NBA like Hampton does.
The Tigers could have been looking at an all-freshmen starting five with Hampton next to Boogie Ellis, DJ Jeffries, Precious Achiuwa, and James Wiseman. That team likely would have had three lottery picks, but the inexperience would have been a lot to overcome, as well as the challenge of juggling winning games while also developing those players for the NBA. Memphis will be just fine without Hampton next season.
Its never been a dream of his to play college basketball, its been a dream of his to use college basketball as a vehicle to get to the NBA, Rod Hampton, R.J.s father told 247Sports. “Hes playing against grown men. Hes learning how to practice like a pro and learning how to do everything like a pro, and I just think those options outweigh going to college.
The hometown school for the Dallas native, Texas Tech put itself on the map by running all the way to the Final Four this past season. Coach Chris Beard is now regarded as one of the brightest minds in the sport. He also helped develop top-15 picks in the last two drafts with Zhaire Smith and now Jarrett Culver. While theres a lot to like about Texas Tech, the team is losing a ton from last season. Beard is an especially demanding coach on the defensive end and has never had a prospect of Hamptons caliber. Texas Tech might have been a great place to develop, but the roster turnover along with questions about how Beard would handle a top-five recruit also made it a dicey situation.
RJ Hampton spurns NCAA to go pro in New Zealand
Detractors of Hamptons decision have pointed to Mudiay, Jennings, and Fergusons relative lack of NBA success as a reason going overseas isnt worth it. The truth is Jennings made more than $40 million in his career, Mudiay has already made close to $10 million before he signs his second contract, and Ferguson already has starter experience for the Thunder on his rookie deal.
How would those same critics respond to the struggles had by former top recruits Romeo Langford, Nassir Little, and Grimes at the college level this season? College basketball can still be wonderful for marketing opportunities, which Hampton will miss out on. Its also not a clearly better place to develop than the route Hampton ultimately chose.
In fact, being a mystery man in the draft usually only helps a players stock. While his peers are under a microscope at the college level, Hampton can play with less attention on every mistake and carry more intrigue into private workouts. Look at the rise of Darius Garland this season, who shot up draft boards after missing almost all of the season at Vanderbilt with a knee injury. Thon Maker was the No. 10 overall pick without playing college ball. Mudiay went No. 7 and Ferguson still went in the first round.
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College basketball can do a lot for someones personal brand — just ask Zion Williamson or Lonzo Ball. Theres something to be said for avoiding the microscope that comes with that spotlight, though. Sometimes in the NBA draft, the less tape, the better.
RJ Hampton Forgoes College, Signs With New Zealand Breakers Of NBL
Hamptons contract hasnt been disclosed, but you can bet hell be making six figures playing in New Zealand. Hes also negotiating a shoe deal. Go get that money, young man.
R.J. Hampton Faces Long Odds of NBA Stardom by Signing Overseas
This feels like the correct move for Hampton. He gets to train and play against grown men next year in a country that speaks English while making a lot of money. Hes likely to be a top-10 NBA draft pick in 2020, and hell have an outside chance to go No. 1 overall if he plays well and shines in workouts.
Hampton was a perfect position to make this jump because of his development curve, because of the support from his family, and because the NBL has been waiting for someone just like him. Turning pro out of high school isnt going to be the best move for most players. It was for Hampton.