R.J. Hampton To Forgo College, Play In New Zealand

Top high school recruit R.J. Hampton has elected to forgo college for the 2019/20 season and will instead join the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL, he confirmed today in an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up. Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com and Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com, both of whom have Hampton ranked as the No. 5 recruit in this year’s class, have full reports on his decision.

“My number one goal is to play in the NBA,” Hampton told ESPN. “I wanted to be an NBA player before I ever wanted to be a college player. This is about getting ready for the next level faster and more efficiently.

“Both of my parents went to college. My mom got her masters degree. Education is a big thing in our family, but this is about focusing 100 percent on basketball. You can always go back to college, but there’s only a short window as an athlete where you can play professional basketball, and I want to take advantage of that. I think that challenging yourself on a daily basis is the best way to improve.”

As Givony and Daniels note, Hampton isn’t the first top prospect to forgo college in favor of going pro immediately. However, other players who took a similar route – including Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Terrance Ferguson – had college eligibility concerns. Hampton, who had been considering scholarship offers from Kansas, Memphis, and Texas Tech, had no such issues.

Hampton tells ESPN that he was inspired to head overseas in part by watching last year’s No. 3 overall pick have significant success in Europe before being drafted.

Luka Doncic is one of my favorite players to watch,” Hampton said. “I started following him two years before he was drafted and watched at least 10 games of his this season. Seeing how he came into the NBA and being arguably the best rookie in the NBA shows you that you don’t have to go to college to be successful. Playing professionally against men helped him get to where he is now. He’s not the fastest or most athletic guy, but he gets where he wants on the floor and reads defenses better than almost any player in the NBA.”

Hampton’s father, Rod Hampton, tells Daniels that his son also had offers from teams in Europe and Asia, including an offer exceeding $1MM from a Chinese club. However, R.J. and his family liked the fit with the Breakers, who can offer a roster spot to Hampton via the NBL’s “Next Stars” program.

“It’s an English-speaking country,” Rod said of New Zealand. “You’re going from Texas to New Zealand and they have a really good partnership with the NBA. His team plays two games against NBA teams this year.”

A 6’5″ guard, Hampton is now on track to be eligible for the 2020 draft and currently projects as a top-10 pick. In his most recent ’20 mock draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) had Hampton coming off the board at No. 6 overall.

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18 thoughts on “R.J. Hampton To Forgo College, Play In New Zealand

  1. Luckylefty2

    If the NCAA doesn’t start paying. They’re going to lose a lot of money.

    • knickscavsfan

      Yeah some teams do but I would say most don’t. The penalty is too draconian if caught, and they almost always end up getting caught at some point.

      They aren’t going to lose any money. You really think American’s are going to subscribe to watch these guys play overseas? No. They’ll just wait until they come back stateside and enjoy whoever takes the court in the college ranks.

  2. Jason Lancaster

    I like the idea, but this is a mistake. New Zealand is a really long flight, and most teams won’t send more than one or two scouts one or two times. He’s going to have to shine to stand out, and even then he might go later in the first than he could if he played for Duke, Kentucky, etc.

    Europe would have made much more sense. Most teams have resident scouts, and don’t mind sending their own multiple times.

    • I give no fox

      With technology today, do you really need to watch him live more than a handful of times?

      • jump shot

        You’re correct, IGNFx…. and there’s something to be said for OVERexposure, too.

        • hiflew

          All overexposure shows is that a player is not capable of playing in the NBA. Everyone always sides with the player in these situations. Why shouldn’t the NBA have full knowledge of a person they intend to invest millions of dollars into? If you were purchasing stock in a company, would you invest in the one that looks good on a couple of papers, but hides all its other papers? Maybe you would, but I don’t think I would.

        • hiflew

          Besides, if he gets exposed at Texas Tech, what do you think is going to happen to him at the G League or in the NBA?

      • Jason Lancaster

        I mean, you tell me: most teams send scouts to college games even now with all the tech. Same goes for game planning during the season – live scouts are attending every NBA game.

        I get that video is powerful, but it’s difficult to evaluate players in any setting. Teams only get one first round pick in most years, and they usually do a lot of work before drafting. Lots of in person stuff too. Seeing a player has to have some value, or teams wouldn’t do it anywhere.

    • sidewinder11

      It’s also possible that he cares more about getting himself ready for NBA than increasing his draft stock. Lottery players aren’t always the most NBA-ready players in the draft. So if he is willing to take a risk on his draft stock falling in order to gain experience against professional competition, more power to him.

    • knickscavsfan

      If he’s been projected to be a top 5 draft pick in 2020 then my guess is, he’s been well scouted already. Besides, do you really think that NBA teams don’t have permanent scouts that already live in different parts of the world? Distance didn’t seem to be an issue when it came to scouting other foreign players. Besides, all they have to do is send one of their head scouts in Europe or Asia to Australia and follow the New Zealand team around during the many games played in Australia. In a month he’d probably catch 5-10 games. And as someone else mentioned, there’s film.


      • Jason Lancaster

        I’m sure there are NBA scouts in New Zealand. I’m all but certain they’re not team employees, that they don’t have as much experience as scouts that work for the team, and that they’re not trusted to the same degree as team employees.

        Have you ever read about Masai Ujuri’s background as a scout? He’d send reports and no one would read them. The teams literally paid him to scout and then didn’t read or trust his analysis… And that wasn’t that long ago.

    • knickscavsfan

      Look at the kid Garland out of Vanderbilt. He played only 5 games with the best being USC and he’s projected to be a lottery pick. Not so much based off of what he did in those 5 games but what he showed as a high school recruit.

    • formerlyz

      The NBL is actually a pretty good league with a reach, and a relationship with the NBA

  3. hiflew

    The big difference is that Luka Doncic didn’t go there to play basketball for a year. He was FROM there.

    He is not comparable to Luka Doncic. He is directly comparable to Jennings, Mudiay, and Ferguson. Three players that have not exactly succeeded at the NBA level.

    • x%sure

      Yes that list is one of players who did not achieve their potential. And plenty of youths have played against men in Europe/Asia/ANZ and NOT made it. Hampton should recognize Doncic’s talent.

      Meanwhile, it is said that Euroleagues are losing prospects to the NCAA. link to hoopsrumors.com

      The world over kids want tot go to American colleges instead of sports academies and it works when they do. Men’s soccer may be an exception, but even then not in some places in South America.

  4. Definitely like this kid, how he speaks, what he thinks & how right he is that he can only get better playing against men than kids. Hope it works for him & when he gets to the NBA is gonna be a star, so many other kids will follow his path.

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