R.J. Hampton will spend a one-and-done year in New Zealand and Australia instead of in the U.S.
The 6-foot-5 point guard from Little Elm, Texas, announced Tuesday on ESPN that he had signed to play with the New Zealand Breakers of Australia's NBL. The league has nine teams, with just one in New Zealand.
Hampton was being recruited by Kansas, Memphis, and Texas Tech, and previously by Duke and Kentucky.
"Next year I will be going overseas to play in the Australian Basketball League with the New Zealand Breakers," he said on ESPN.
"My dream has never been to play college basketball. My dream has always been to get to the next level and play in the NBA so I think this is the best route for me to live like a pro and play with grown men every day and not kind of have to juggle books and basketball, just focus on my game."
Hampton is the projected No. 6 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, per ESPN.com.
RJ Hampton (ranked No. 5 recruit in ESPN Top 100) will forgo college to play professionally in Australia's NBL. pic.twitter.com/xWmh7V5RaF— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) May 28, 2019
Jeremy Loeliger, the CEO of the NBL, said in a phone interview that he had been speaking for three months with Hampton's father, Rod Hampton.
"For the league, I think it’s an enormous boost for the credibility of the Next Stars program," Loeliger said. "It was a program that was initially intended for kids who might have fallen through the cracks, whether they weren’t eligible to go to college for some reason or for some reason didn’t want to go to college. But it was always intended to build to the point where it was going to be an eligible pathway for a really top recruit to make a decision to come to play in the NBL instead of going to college or to Europe or to China.
“We’ve been speaking for probably the best part of three months, I would say. It hasn’t taken us three months to come to an agreement. It was really a matter of speaking to them about what the NBL was about and what the Next Stars program was about and leading them to make a decision that was right for R.J."
Loeliger declined to disclose contract terms, but 247Sports.com reported that Hampton was offered more than $1 million to play in China. Loeliger said his deal in Australia has "other elements" besides just his base salary. He is expected to arrive in New Zealand in mid-August and the season begins in October, Loeliger said. Hampton is also slated to play this summer with the U.S. U19 team, and if he makes the final roster would compete in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece, June 29-July 7.
Most likely to announce this week he’s playing 2019-20 in Australia ?— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 28, 2019
Americans players Brian Bowen and Terrance Ferguson have recently played in Australia, while Emmanuel Mudiay played in China before coming to the NBA.
Still, while all of those players faced eligibility issues at American colleges, Rod Hampton wanted it known his son was eligible to play in the U.S.
“I want the public to know this isn’t a fly by night move," Rod told 247Sports. "R.J. could get Stanford. He has a 1280 on the SAT and a 3.7 GPA. We aren’t doing this for financial reasons or he has to do this, he could have gone to college.”