The final uncommitted five-star in the 2019 recruiting class won't be headed to college.
On Tuesday morning, guard R.J. Hampton announced on ESPN's Get Up that he will begin his professional career overseas with the NBL's New Zealand Breakers rather than spend a season in the NCAA. Hampton previously reclassified from the 2020 class to 2019 and had been considering Kansas, Memphis and Texas Tech.
"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," Hampton's father Rod Hampton told 247Sports. "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.”
The 6'5" Hampton, out of Little Elm (Texas) High School, was No. 5 in the 247Sports composite ranking of the 2019 recruiting class, the third-best guard behind Georgia-bound Anthony Edwards and UNC-bound Cole Anthony. Here’s how SI.com NBA draft expert Jeremy Woo breaks down the game of the combo guard:
After reclassifying into 2019, Hampton immediately had a strong case as the best long-term guard prospect among incoming freshmen. He's a big, fluid lead guard who is capable of navigating tight spots on the floor and scoring in creative fashion, relying on his shiftiness and above average coordination. He's a reliable jump shooter and has a good feel for playmaking, and he would have been a high-usage, high-impact piece right away in college. Hampton's body is still filling out, and as he gets stronger, his game could reach another level. It's not out of the question he'll end up playing his way into the mix for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
Hampton opting to go overseas means Kansas won't sign a five-star for the first time since 2012. The Jayhawks were hoping to land the top-10 prospect as a late spring coup, but could still potentially bring back guards Devon Dotson and/or Quentin Grimes, who have until Wednesday night to withdraw from the NBA draft. Kansas is also in the mix for four-star forward Jalen Wilson, who recently decommitted from Michigan and could become the Jayhawks' first (and only) top-50 recruit in 2019.
Memphis, meanwhile, was hoping to add Hampton to a recruiting class that's already No. 1 in the country, while Texas Tech is in the process of reloading after its national championship game run and has the nation's No. 15 class.
In bypassing college, Hampton joins recent top recruits like Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrance Ferguson to spend their year before being eligible for the NBA draft overseas. Last year, Syracuse commit Darius Bazley ultimately opted for a season in the G-League over the NCAA, and this year, NC State commit Jalen Lecque declared for the draft thanks to rules that made him eligible as a fifth-year high school senior. And, of course, there's the famous case of LaMelo Ball, who would have been a part of next year's NCAA freshman class but left high school in 2017 to play professionally in Lithuania.