Elite prospect RJ Hampton’s potentially trend-setting decision to skip college basketball and head to Australia this week has triggered a ripple effect that has entered the NBA and how professional hoops looks at players who immediately turn pro after high school before coming to the league.
Hampton will play for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL and reportedly turned down an offer in excess of $1 million from a professional team in China.
“Australia has a fantastic development system,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during Wednesday’s appearance on ESPN’s Get Up!. “I think their population is around 24 million and they have around a dozen NBA players in the league right now. We’ve studied the Australian academy system there, and they move their young players to full-time ballplayers once they’ve hit 14 or so. They’re designated based on aptitude they’ve shown.
“From that standpoint, if I had a son or was advising someone, Australia is one of the best places to do that. We’ve opened (basketball) academies all over the the world in China, in India, in Africa. For him, that’s a decision an individual player should have the ability to make, especially when they’re 18 years old.”
The 6-foot-5 combo guard was the final five-star prospect in the class of 2019 to make his decision and was rated as the nation’s fifth-best prospect, per the 247Sports Composite. Hampton re-classified from the class of 2020 into the class of 2019 a few months back. When he reclassified, he narrowed down his list to four schools, Kansas, Texas Tech, Memphis and Kentucky. At the time he made his decision, Hampton was considering KU, Memphis and Texas Tech.
It was revealed this week Hampton would’ve picked the Jayhawks had Australia not been an option.
“I am a little jealous,” Silver said. “In our G-League, we’re trying to create our own professional track. He decided he was better off in Australia than our G-League. I think I’m going to talk to the commissioner of our G-League to see what we can do differently. For an American player who decides college isn’t for me and wants to spend full time devoted to the game of basketball, there should be an alternative in the (United States) to do that.”
Hampton didn’t disclose the details of the contract with 247Sports national college basketball insider Evan Daniels, but noted it surpasses what the G-League was offering and said they’re working to solidify a shoe deal.
“I think he’s ready, that’s why we weren’t going back to high school,” Hampton’s father, Rod, told 247Sports. “It’s never been a dream of his to play college basketball, it’s been a dream of his to use college basketball as a vehicle to get to the NBA. … He’s playing against grown men. He’s learning how to practice like a pro, and learning how to do everything like a pro and I just think those options outweigh going to college.”