RJ Hampton could play college basketball anywhere he wanted.
The 6-foot-5 point guard from Little Elm (Texas) High is a five-star basketball prospect with impressive grades and SAT scores. He’s received scholarship offers from such elite college programs as Duke and Kentucky, and had recently narrowed his choices to Memphis, Kansas and Texas Tech.
But Hampton has decided he does not want to play college basketball at all.
He announced Tuesday on ESPN’s “Get Up!” that he had agreed to play professional basketball with the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian National Basketball League.
“My dream has never been to play college basketball,” Hampton said. “My dream is always to get to the next level and to play in the NBA, so I think this was the best route for me — to live like a pro and play grown men every day and not kind of have to juggle books and basketball, and just focus on my main goal.”
His father, Rod Hampton, told 247 Sports: “This isn’t a fly-by-night move. RJ could get in to Stanford. He has a 1280 on the SAT and a 3.7 GPA. We aren’t doing this for financial reasons or he has to do this, he could have gone to college.”
He added: “I just think he’s at the level he soaks things up so fast, he’s going to grow so much more and I think he’ll grow more playing in a professional league than college.”
Hampton’s deal is for two years, Breakers part-owner and managing director Matt Walsh told Bloomberg. If Hampton is drafted by an NBA team in 2020, his first year of eligibility, the Breakers would be eligible for an $800,000 buyout from that team, Walsh said.
“It will be kind of a wake-up moment for college programs,” Walsh said. “People are going to think, ‘How on Earth did they lose him to New Zealand?’ ”
In addition to the college scholarship offers, Rod Hampton said his son had been approached by multiple overseas teams, including one from China that offered him $1 million, before deciding to go with the Breakers.
“The Breakers were the best team for me,” RJ Hampton told ESPN. “Their owners played in the NBA, and they told me their goal is to help me have a great experience in New Zealand and ultimately a great career in the NBA. The fact that I’ll be able to play two preseason games against NBA teams in October was very attractive. I’ll be able to get a little taste of the atmosphere and how NBA games are played, which should expedite my development.”