Skip to main content

The Orlando Magic have one of the most intriguing young rosters in the entire NBA, and they also have the first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, which is coming up on June 23. 

One of their top young players is 21-year-old RJ Hampton, who was the 24th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

Currently, Hampton is spending his offseason in between Orlando, Texas and Memphis. 

On Wednesday, he said he had just gotten back from a workout with teammates on the Magic. 

"We're a young team, we've got a lot to prove, so guys are trying to get that work in this summer with the coaches at the facility, so we can come out and not have the season we had last year," Hampton told Fastbreak on FanNation in a phone interview on Wednesday. 

Hampton was ranked as the fifth best player in the country, according to ESPN's 2019 recruiting rankings. 

Despite having offers from blue blood schools such as Kansas and Duke, the 6'5" guard instead chose to go to New Zealand to play for the Breakers of the NBL (National Basketball League). 

"I love all the colleges that recruited me, and I always will have love for the country of New Zealand," he said. "A lot of times in my interviews early on in my career I would say 'oh yeah I would make the decision again', and at this point in my career I would probably say I don't know if I would. I wouldn't say if I wouldn't or I would, but it's just something that I probably would have thought about a little bit harder."

Hampton says that he learned at a young age (17 and 18-years-old) that it's a business, and players have to preform and have thick skin. 

"At the end of the day, those decisions that I made when I was younger, I think helped me evolve into the player and person I am today," he said. 

Hampton actually began his career with the Denver Nuggets, and played 25 games there in 2020-21. 

Therefore, he got a chance to play with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. 

"I haven't truly been around a player in my life that knows the game as well as he does," Hampton said of Jokic. 

He was traded to the Magic on the final day of the trading deadline. 

Sitting on the bus (in Tampa Bay where the Toronto Raptors played that season) with Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr. and Gary Harris, Hampton had a feeling he was going to get traded. 

His agent called him, and asked him how he felt about going to Orlando. 

Minutes later, the Nuggets told Hampton and Harris (on the bus) that they had been traded. 

"We got off the bus, they got us a car service back to the hotel," Hampton said.  "The Magic picked us up from the hotel that we were staying at in Tampa and we drove down to Orlando."

In the 26 games he played the rest of that season, he averaged 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. 

This past season, Hampton averaged 7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. 

The Magic did not make the playoffs (15th seed in the Eastern Conference), but with the top pick in the draft and the young talent on the roster, they are in a good spot. 

"I think we just have to be hungry," Hampton said. "I think that we have a team with a lot of young guys, a lot of talented guys and we have to sacrifice a lot for, if you don't sacrifice will continue to be in the lottery, and the number one pick. Guys don't want that, guys want to be in the play-in game, guys want to be that 6, 5, seed in the east that can compete. We're not saying next year we're going to win a championship, but next year we want to be able to have the respect of the league to say that when you come to Orlando, you're going to have give your best effort."

Hampton has goals for his team and himself, but he knows it starts with the team first. 

"I have a goal, I want our team to be very, very good," he said. "I think if our team is very, very good, I have goals for myself. I want to be in contention for if I'm not starting, 6th Man of The Year. I want to be in contention for in the rankings for Defensive Player of The Year, I think those are things I take pride on. My personal goals I don't think I can reach those without us coming together as a team. Sacrificing all of ourselves, and we have to win games. No matter what, if you're not winning games, no ones watching."

The 2022-23 NBA season will begin in October of this year, and Hampton and the Magic will be a team to keep an eye on.