It’s not that R.J. Hampton wasn’t disappointed that the NBA draft got pushed back from June to mid-October, it’s just that as he’s continued to work and progress to prepare for the draft, he’s noticed substantial growth, literally.
Hampton has grown a half inch (6-foot-5 1/2) and added muscle (195 pounds) as a result of an intensified grind amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a blessing in disguise,” Hampton said. “My game has grown a lot.”
Hampton has been learning under the tutelage of former NBA stars turned Memphis’ men’s basketball coaching staff Penny Hardaway, the Tigers’ head coach, and Mike Miller, who serves as an assistant coach.
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“Mike, he’s been working on me with my shot; Penny has been working on me with my IQ and my point guard skills,” Hampton said. “Being with them for the last three and a half months has really grown me as a player and will translate to the next level.”
Hampton’s training with Miller is particularly key since some analysts have pointed to Hampton’s shooting ability as an area for improvement. Hampton shot 29.5 percent from the 3-point line with the Breakers, Miller was a career 40.7 percent 3-point shooter in the NBA.
“My first five or six games in New Zealand I shot the be really well then I kinda went into a slump,” Hampton said. “I think I can shoot the ball really well. I know I can grow to be a better shooter, that’s why I’m working with Mike. I feel like I’m one of the best shooters in this draft.”
Last year, Hampton shocked the basketball world when he opted to play professionally in New Zealand last season instead of attending one of his top college choices like Memphis or Kansas.
Hampton played 15 games for the Breakers, averaging 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists, despite being hampered with injuries throughout the season.
Now healthy, Hampton said he feels like he’s worked his way into the top tier of the NBA lottery.
“I definitely feel like my time in New Zealand playing against grown men and on a great team really benefitted me,” Hampton said. “I definitely feel like I’ve played myself into that top tier.”