High school basketball player R.J. Hampton is the No. 5-ranked prospect on ESPN’s list of 100 recruits from the class of 2019, and this morning we all found out that he will not be playing college basketball next season. Instead, he will be playing in the Australian pro league as a member of the New Zealand Breakers.
Hampton, who had scholarship offers from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Memphis, and Texas Tech, announced his decision on this morning’s episode of Get Up:
Hampton explained that his “dream has never been to play college basketball,” and that he thinks playing in the NBL will best prepare him for the NBA. Hampton isn’t the first highly rated high school player to choose a foreign pro league over the NCAA, but other players who have done so previously were facing eligibility issues. Hampton had no such hangups, though, and probably would have been starting at Kansas next year if he had wanted to.
Hampton picking the NBL wasn’t random, either. The league recently launched the Next Stars program, which is specifically designed to lure one-and-done players away from the NCAA. The program allows the league to invite players of a certain pedigree to join an NBL team on a short-term contract without counting against the team’s quota of three international players. The recruited player’s salary is also partly subsidized by the league itself, and after one season they become eligible to enter the NBA draft. It’s a pretty great deal for everyone involved, except for the NCAA, which is the best possible outcome.