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.