R.J. Hampton Still Roots for Kansas, Expects More HS Players to Go Pro

Jason Jordan

Last May when R.J. Hampton shocked the basketball world by opting to play professionally for the New Zealand Breakers over playing in college, he thought the experience would benefit his ultimate goal of being as prepared as possible when it was time to make the jump to the NBA.

Nine months later, Hampton said he doesn’t think that’s the case, he knows it.

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“I have grown so much as a player and even as a person since playing professionally,” Hampton said. “I didn’t just play games against veteran pros; I was competing with them in practice every day. For me, going pro was the best route.”

Hampton got back from New Zealand last week to train and rehab his hip, which he injured in December.

“I came back to try and play after that, but it wasn’t right,” Hampton said. “My team and my agent felt like it was best to focus on getting back to 100% and prepare for the draft.” 

Hampton played 15 games for the Breakers, averaging 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He’s projected to be a top 10 pick in June’s NBA draft.

“I feel like every aspect of my game got better in my time there,” Hampton said. “Mostly mentally though. It’s just a different type of confidence you gain after playing professionally. It’s just a different level.”

That said, Hampton is still “a big fan” of college basketball and considers Kansas his team.

Before announcing for New Zealand, Hampton, a consensus top-five player in the 2019 class, had cut hist list to Kansas, Memphis and Texas Tech.

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“Jalen Wilson at Kansas is my best friend, so I live out any of my dreams of playing in college through him,” Hampton said. “Kansas is still my team. They all knew that I would’ve come to Kansas, and they respected my decision to come over here. I’m hoping they win the natty this year.”

Hampton said that his experience as a pro has prompted some of his peers who are still in high school to inquire about pros and cons of overseas life.

“I tell them like this, if you’re looking to compete and have fun and have that whole college experience, then go to college,” Hampton said. “But if you’re looking to step into the league and make an impact, I think going overseas is the best option. I think you’ll see players go this route more and more.”