QWhen RJ Hampton announced he was forgoing college to play in New Zealand, some thoughts went through my head. A couple of them positive but mostly, puzzling thoughts. On one hand, the kid becomes only the second or third legit NBA basketball prospect to go overseas and play basketball instead of going to college (I said legit, not Liangelo Ball). On the other hand, he will be losing out on the resources that a division one college has to offer including better coaching, better weight and nutrition programs, and better one on one preparation for him to go pro.
Hampton’s father is the one that said his son isn’t set out for college. With the exception of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and recently retired Dirk Nowitzki, no NBA star this century has been able to create his own stardom without the benefit of going to college for a year or two.
Now, I’m not saying that he shouldn’t go to the other side of the world to prepare for the NBA, but I am saying is that he should be aware of what that does to a player’s draft stock. Going into this next season, he was going to be looked at as a lottery pick in the 2020 draft. But now, his draft stock could take a hit because he will be going overseas where he won’t just miss out on the bevy of resources we talked about earlier but the exposure.
Just look at Liangelo Ball. He started his career at UCLA and eventually withdrew due to a suspension caused by an incident in China. At that point, he wasn’t considered a draft pick but he would have most likely gotten a tryout or a summer league invite. He and his brother went to Lithuania and it appeared as if he’d fallen off the planet after that. Although he had a long ways to go already, it became apparent that going overseas might not have been the best option. Now, Liangelo Ball plays in the JBA, something most of us have never heard of or laugh when we hear the league’s name brought up.
Ex-UCLA freshman LiAngelo Ball has no chance that he'll be drafted in June — and that was true before his shoplifting incident in China. "He's not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists," one GM told ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 4, 2017
A ton of people tied to the sport knew about Zion Williamson, the presumed number one overall pick in this draft, before he started his career at Duke. However, the general population still had no clue. Now, the only people who may not know who he is either don’t follow sports at all or live under rocks.
His face and highlights have been shown to us everywhere and his exposure has only helped his rise. Hampton could have gotten that exposure from any of the three universities he chose. Kansas has been a powerhouse for as long as most of us can remember, Memphis is a up and coming program with a former NBA all-star at head coach and Texas Tech is another up and coming program that has been making national headlines the past couple of years for its toughness.
Texas Tech Basketball. A thing of beauty. pic.twitter.com/HlLCUNhpzY— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) February 24, 2019
He’s also changed the recruiting process forever. Hampton has opened everyone’s eyes that there is another option besides going and playing for a school where you won’t get paid and you won’t get a cent of the money that the schools make off of you. It changes how schools have to think about certain recruits. What if Zion had chosen to play overseas? That unfortunately means that schools wasted tons of resources trying to get Hampton to play for their school to no avail which to be honest happens all the time. Not every school can get all the recruits they want.
UNLV transfer Joel Ntambwe just verbally committed to Texas Tech, he tells @247Sports. Huge addition for Chris Beard. Ntambwe averaged 11.8 PPG & 5.5 RPG per game.— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) May 26, 2019
The difference here is that no one got him, and it appeared that his decision was made before he even threw Texas Tech in the mix. He also seemed to lead everyone on and eliminated Kentucky from his top-4 just about a week before he announced his decision. There were grumblings that he might go overseas but I’ll give him and his camp credit for keeping it mostly bottled up for a month.
The problem I have is that he didn’t come out at the end of April and tell everyone that he was doing this, or that it was even an option. It might have helped the colleges that were recruiting him attempt to recruit him better and more efficiently, it might have been a sign to these colleges to not put as many resources toward attempting to recruit him. It’s like fighting with something that you don’t know is there.
Five-star guard RJ Hampton is now in the Class of 2019 and considering four schools — Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Texas Tech. He’ll play college basketball next season and then, barring a surprise, enter the 2020 NBA Draft. https://t.co/dQFAPG3333— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) April 30, 2019
It really blindsided most people, myself included, and I didn’t even know that this was an option he was considering. It also probably infuriated some fan bases that he made it appear as if he was potentially going to chose their school and then decided to do something completely different. Then again he is his own person, he doesn’t have to tell us anything.
There’s no doubt in my mind that RJ Hampton has changed how recruiters have to look at big time prospects like him. Even smaller prospects who want to start making money now. This decision has opened tons of doors for young basketball players everywhere now and it will all be traced back to him. This could either turn into one of the great defining moments in basketball history or it could be another blunder that will be cast to the back of our collective memory.
What do you think will happen to RJ Hampton? Will he still be a projected lottery pick come this time next year or do you think his stock will drop? Let us know in the comment section below!