Why a top basketball prospect chose to play professionally in New Zealand over college – The Washington Post

Why a top basketball prospect chose to play professionally in New Zealand over college - The Washington Post

Why are hoops prospects like R.J. Hampton skipping college? These guys dont want to be in school

R.J. Hampton (L) goes up for a shot against Josh Christopher (R) during the SLAM Summer Classic 2018 in August. Hampton decided to forgo college to play professionally overseas on Tuesday. (Getty)MoreIn the grand stratosphere of college basketball, the news of top-10 recruit R.J. Hampton deciding to play professionally in New Zealand instead of at Kansas, Texas Tech or Memphis doesnt mean a whole lot. Its not going to cost anyone in college basketball their job, sell less season-ticket packages or prompt a ratings drop.

Hampton is a really good high school basketball player who is simply choosing to play professionally rather than collegiately. Its something we should be used to after Brandon Jennings (Italy), Jeremy Tyler (Israel), Emmanuel Mudiay (China), Terrance Ferguson (Australia) and a few others. Finding an alternative to college is on the fast track from anomaly to normalcy. Hamptons decision is emblematic of the attitudes of high school basketball players toward college as we hurtle toward potentially seismic changes coming to the NBA draft in 2022.

Should more NBA prospects play overseas instead of college?

Think of Hamptons decision not as some paradigm shift where dozens of players will follow him overseas. Instead, with the 2022 draft likely the first one where high school players will be able to go directly to the NBA, consider it the start of a flood of players following their hearts and wallets. Hampton didnt have academic issues like Ferguson and he wasnt forced to Australia with NCAA issues like Brian Bowen last year. Hes the poster child for the reality that college coaches — and some media — dont want to hear. The allure of playing college basketball has dipped precipitously in the past decade. And theres no uptick in sight.

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The singular difference from now and when this track was open a long time ago, said an NBA scout, referencing the direct-to-NBA route, which ended in 2005, is the absolute deterioration of the value of a college scholarship in the eyes of the players and their families. These guys dont want to be in school and dont care. The carrot of education has been devalued.

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Australias NBL has reached out and expressed interest in LaMelo Ball

Theres a good guess why the priorities of prospects have shifted. The parents have followed the money. Consider that since 2005, high-end coaching salaries have nearly tripled to as much as $10 million annually, the NCAA television contract has skyrocketed into the billions and a boom in conference-specific cable content has poured tens of millions annually into leagues like the SEC and Big Ten. For the players, they get a few table scraps like cost of attendance and some more charter flights and nicer gyms. But the alleged draw to college is still the scholarship. And its going to become increasingly clear when the NBA rule changes back, just how stale that carrot is for top prospects.

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Everyone thinks LaVar Ball is a one-in-a-billion parent, said Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Corey Evans. But that mentality and thinking to get paid right now is in play with a lot of the parents of these elite prospects.

If we’ve learned anything in the past from the Ball family, it’s that they’ve almost always taken the latter of those two roads. That being said, the family has a…history in China that may not be worth revisiting. It’ll be interesting to see what decision is made in, presumably, the near future by the family.

Notebook: RJ Hampton Chooses to Play Overseas; A look at KU Football

Hamptons path shows that. He reclassified to leave high school early a month ago so he could get to college faster. But that wasnt fast enough. He told Evans that he considered playing professionally the safer route for players, as opposed to college. Hamptons father, Rod, summed up the essence of an overseas venture over an eight-month college pit stop with a side order of education. Its never been a dream of his to play college basketball, Rod Hampton told 247 Sports. Its been a dream of his to use college basketball as a vehicle to get to the NBA.

Next in line for the league, though, could be its biggest catch yet in LaMelo Ball. The ball family has expressed interest in joining the NBL and, on Tuesday, an article from the Brisbane Times included comments from NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger stating the league’s desire to have Ball come to Australia.

The problems RJ Hampton would have solved and where KU is now

So how many top high school players will be skipping school and attempting to go to the NBA once its formally allowed? There were nine high school entrants back in 2005. But so much has changed with exposure and social media that a mass exodus is expected. I guessed 50 players will declare annually to another NBA scout on Thursday. His response? Maybe even more, to be honest with you. He added: Everyone is going to throw their name in there. I can only imagine how it works: He declared, so Im declaring. You get the peer-pressure thing. It doesnt cost them or hurt them to get the feedback. I would if I was a kid.

The program was designed in recent years to foster a stronger bond between American athletes and the teams in the league. The league has begun to reap the benefits in recent years, landing players like Brian Bowen, Terrance Ferguson and, on Monday, 2019 five-star prospect RJ Hampton.

R.J. Hampton (5) is shown during the SLAM Summer Classic in New York City in 2018. Hampton decided to forgo college to play professionally overseas on Tuesday. (Getty)MoreStory continuesThis is what the sport of college basketball feels unprepared for as it faces a historic talent drain. Would the dozens of players all stay in the draft? Of course not. There are only 60 draft spots. For now, anyway, but it feels like that could get bigger as there were already 233 early entry attempts from college this year — a number thats more than double the 109 in 2005 — with expanded rosters (17 players thanks to a pair of two-way deals) and a thriving G League that could accommodate them.

The league has eight more teams that Ball could land on, including the reigning champions Perth Wildcats as well as teams in Melbourne and Sydney. Ball would instantly be the most popular current player in the league and likely the most popular player to ever play in the league.

No one knows how many high school kids will declare when the one-and-done rule is gone. But its clear that far more than nine players will stay in the draft. Its nostalgic to look back at how efficient player declarations were in the last preps-to-pros era, as just six high school players who declared for the draft in a seven-year span werent selected. How quaint. There were notables like Lenny Cooke (2002), Taj McDavid (1996) and Tony Key (2001) in that group.

Earlier in the day, Hampton — one of the top-rated high school stars in the country — announced he turned down scholarship offers from schools like Kansas and Kentucky to play overseas for the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian National Basketball League. 

Report: Elite basketball prospect passes on LSU, Kansas, Kentucky, others; going pro in New Zealand

So what will the 2022 NBA draft look like? Its hard to say because everything will be so different. The new route is going to change nearly everything about the sport in America — the way NBA teams evaluate, college programs recruit and the method in which players choose both high schools and AAU programs. Virtually everything will look different.

“They got a lot of ex-NBA guys that own the team,” Hampton said … “The coaching staffs really good. The team is actually a really good team. Theyre all bought in and invested in me getting to the league as quickly as possible.”

Will Hamptons journey impact how kids decide? Hes arguably the best talent of those players who went overseas, as hes ranked in the same range as Mudiay. Hampton will be considered along with Georgias Anthony Edwards and North Carolinas Cole Anthony as perhaps the first guard taken in the upcoming draft. Going to New Zealand wont impact him much, as NBA teams have plenty of budget to fly overseas and check him out. Their low-level scouts can scour every second of video. New Zealand in the NBAs eyes isnt any different than playing college ball in Spokane or Tallahassee.

College basketball isnt going to die, but it appears destined to lose some oxygen. As long as theres a bracket, gambling and student sections, the sport will muster the attention of America every March. Basically, despite the NCAA, its members and coaches, the sport will continue to succeed. One NBA scout pointed out why kids still value going to college: Some people still like the idea of the brand building and March Madness.

TMZ Sports spotted Hampton taking his family to dinner at Catch NYC — one of the hottest restaurants in town … where he told us paid for the entire meal himself! And, this place aint cheap!

This is a warning that theres a new generation of kids who see college as more of an impediment than a benefit. The NCAA has begun discussions on allowing players to monetize their name, image and likeness. Its a baby step, but an important one as they lose ground in a competitive field.

Its big especially for the top-level kids, that gives them an option to be able to profit, said an NBA scout. Thats the biggest step to make that change.

College coaches and the impotent organization that represents them, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, should also take a long look at the rule the Rice Commission shuttered last year that would allow programs to hire more on-floor workout coaches. Limiting the amount of hours kids can practice in the offseason and the amount of people that can work them out is antiquated, counter-productive and indicative of the lack of common sense and leadership in the sport. The NCAA handbook should be subtitled: Intense jargon to diminish the student-athlete experience.

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The parents have figured out that while NCAA president Mark Emmert and NABC president Jim Haney pocket millions to preserve the status quo, theyve figured out there are other options for their kids market value.

I think thats a big key, an NBA scout said. Parents understand the value more and options more. I think theyve done a good job, overall, educating them on whats out there, their value and worth. They have power.

R.J. Hampton exercised his power and is headed to New Zealand. Its a small step in the college basketball world that wont leave much of a mark. But once 2022 hits, the attitudes that informed Hamptons decision could lead to a lot of players walking right past college basketball.

Boston Celtics draft 2020: Top prospect R.J. Hampton will go overseas, will it affect his draft stock?

Five-star recruit R.J. Hampton surprised many experts by choosing to play in the National Basketball League in New Zealand instead of NCAA basketball. Hampton was being recruited by Kansas and Memphis before deciding to turn professional, and many feel if a players dream is to play in the NBA, they shouldnt be forced to do it for free in college and attend classes they dont want to. Still, college is the most popular way to get exposure for NBA teams. Whats the better path?


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