One of the most highly touted college basketball recruits, R.J. Hampton, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 100 class of 2019, has decided to skip college and signed a contract with the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian National Basketball League. He made an announcement on ESPN’s Get Up on Tuesday.
Hampton becomes the first American player to willingly forgo college for the option of playing international, professional basketball. Other players such as Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrance Ferguson, who signed overseas for a myriad of reasons including their academic or amateur status.
Hampton told ESPN, “My No. 1 goal is to play in the NBA. 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 master’s 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.”
He continued, “Luka Doncic is one of my favorite players to watch. 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.”
Until the NBA lowers its age limit restriction, Hampton could be one of many more top tier players who see professional basketball overseas as a viable alternative over NCAA basketball.