Mavs star Luka Doncic inspired top HS prospect RJ Hampton to forego college, play professionally
One of the top high school prospects today, RJ Hampton, had already re-classified from the 2021 recruiting class to the 2020 one — meaning he would be eligible to be drafted next year. Hampton was widely linked to the University of Kansas, though multiple teams were in the equation.
With multiple avenues available for the vaunted recruit, Hampton shocked the college basketball and NBA world by deciding to sign with the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League — the top league in Australia and New Zealand.
This is truly a striking move for a modern player. With so much coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball circuit, as well as the wide availability and viewership that sport evinces, opting to play in league with far less coverage in the United States is a rather surprising choice.
According to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, however, one of the reasons why Hampton opted to play overseas professionally was because of the precedent that Doncic set as a member of Real Madrid before being the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
“Luka Doncic is one of my favorite players to watch,” said RJ Hamtpon, who is a Dallas native.
“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.”
Of course, Doncic had been groomed in European basketball’s farm system for years before he joined the Mavs and establish himself as the Rookie of the Year frontrunner. In contrast, Hampton is immediately playing in a league full of grown men.
Time will tell how Hampton fares in the NBL, but his development will surely be one to watch.