Top US prospect R.J. Hampton signs with New Zealand team
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Guard R.J. Hampton, a top U.S. prospect, has decided to forego his college eligibility to sign with the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League.
The 18-year-old Hampton, who is a possible top 10 selection in the 2020 NBA draft, turned down offers from several top colleges, including Kansas, to sign with the Auckland-based team. The 2019-20 NBL season, which features eight teams from Australia and the New Zealand side, begins in October.
“To secure a player of his talent is a tremendous endorsement of our program and a coup for our club,” Breakers chief executive Matt Walsh said Wednesday.
“We think R.J. will have an important role to play as we look to compete for a championship and give him a great taste of what is a world-class league and provide an ideal platform for his NBA journey.”
Hampton said he never intended to play college basketball.
“My dream has always been to get to the next level and play in the NBA,” Hampton told ESPN. “I think (the NBL) was the best route for me — to live like a pro and to play with grown men and not have to juggle books and basketball, and just focus on my main goal.”
From Little Elm High School in Texas, the 6-foot, 4-inch (1.96-meter) Hampton averaged 30.3 points, eight rebounds and 6.6 assists per game as a sophomore and was a member of USA Basketball’s 2018 U17 FIBA World Cup team.
The Next Stars program in the NBL was introduced last season following the drafting of Terrance Ferguson by the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder after he elected not to go to college. He spent the 2016-17 NBL season with the Adelaide 36ers straight out of high school.
Brian Bowen Jr., became the first NBL Next Star when he played for the Sydney Kings last season and will be eligible for next month’s NBA draft.