R.J. Hampton

And-Ones: NBL, Abrines, Africa, NBA Finals

Top 2020 draft prospect R.J. Hampton confirmed today that he’ll pass on the opportunity to play college basketball, heading overseas instead to join the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. While it’s not the first time an elite prospect has bypassed college, just about every player who has done so in the past has had eligibility concerns — Hampton doesn’t.

In a follow-up story on Hampton’s decision, Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com (Insider link) explores the potential upsides and downsides of the youngster’s new path, and examines whether there are other candidates to follow suit.

Outside of perhaps LaMelo Ball, Givony doesn’t expect any other one-and-done candidates to head to the NBL for the 2019/20 season, but he notes that potential fallout from ongoing NCAA corruption investigations could change that. If certain programs are hit by sanctions or head coaching firings, that may cause top prospects to rethink their plans for next season, and the NBL could look to recruit those players.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Before he joined the Thunder in 2016, swingman Alex Abrines played for Barcelona for several seasons. Now, according to a report from Barcelona-based L’Esportiu Catalunya (via Sportando), the Spanish club has interest in bringing him back. Abrines parted ways with Oklahoma City this season for personal reasons, so it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to return to action – whether in the NBA or EuroLeague – for the 2019/20 campaign.
  • Amadou Gallo Fall, the NBA’s vice president and managing director for Africa, has been named the president of the new Basketball Africa League, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The new 12-team African league is on track to begin play in 2020.
  • Besides featuring a new matchup for the first time since 2014, this year’s NBA Finals will also have a significant ripple effect on the upcoming NBA offseason, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. As Reynolds observes, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard will all be free agents this summer, and it’s not inconceivable that their decisions will be affected by what happens in the series.

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.

Draft Notes: Hampton, Elite Camp, Celtics, Simonds, Hawks

RJ Hampton has decided to graduate high school early and reclassify to the Class of 2019, he told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Hampton is the No. 4 player in ESPN’s top-100 class of early 2020 rankings, explaining his major decision to reclassify to Givony.

“I’ve decided to reclassify to the 2019 class,” Hampton told ESPN. “I am doing this because I feel that from a development standpoint, this is the right move for me at this time in order to play against the highest level of competition possible. I am eager to test myself against older and more physically developed players in order to help improve my weaknesses and prepare me for reaching the ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.”

With his decision, Hampton will enroll for college this summer and be eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft. A 6-foot-5 versatile player at 188 pounds, Hampton is one of the most promising young point guards in high school, now shifting his focus to interested schools such as Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Texas Tech, according to ESPN.

“This is a move we’ve been contemplating for some time and we don’t take lightly,” Hampton’s father, Rod, told ESPN. “As someone that played in college as well as professionally in Europe, I know that you can’t skip steps in a player’s development. Thankfully, because of the hard work that RJ has put in in the classroom — achieving a 3.75 GPA and a 1280 SAT — he was able to have this option. This weekend playing against the top players in high school basketball at the Nike EYBL, as well as earlier this month at USA Basketball, my wife, Markita, and I realized that RJ is ready to take the next step and challenge himself by taking the next step in level of competition.”

Here are some other draft-related notes today: