Top basketball recruit R.J. Hampton skipping college to play in New Zealand

By Alex Butler

May 28 (UPI) -- High school basketball star R.J. Hampton is passing on Kansas, Texas Tech and Memphis to play professionally in New Zealand.

Hampton, 18, announced his decision Tuesday on ESPN's Get Up!. The Little Elm High School (Texas) star will play in Australia's National Basketball League.


"Next year, I will be going overseas to play in the Australian basketball league. with the New Zealand Breakers," Hampton said.

Hampton is the highest-ranked draft prospect to ever play in the NBL. He averaged 30.3 points, eight rebounds and 6.6 assists per game as a sophomore.

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"My dream has never been to play college basketball," Hampton said. "My dream has always been to get to the next level and to play in the NBA. I think this was the best route for me to live like a pro and play with grown men everyday and not have to juggle books and basketball and just focus on my main goal."


Hampton narrowed his list to the three schools after also getting offers from Duke and Kentucky. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound point guard is the No. 5 player in the 2019 ESPN 100 recruiting rankings. He received a 96 grade from ESPN, matching Duke stars R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish from last year's rankings.

Memphis commit James Wiseman is the No. 1 player in the 2019 ESPN 100, with a grade of 97.

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Hampton is also ranked as the No. 5 recruit in 247 Sports' player rankings. He is the No. 6 player in the Rivals prospect rankings.

He averaged 24 points, six assists and four rebounds per game this year on the AAU circuit.


"R.J. Hampton is one of the most exciting young talents in the basketball world and an upstanding young man who has all the hallmarks of a future champion," NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger said in a news release.

"We are delighted he has chosen to spend the season with the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL as part of the Next Stars program and look forward to watching him develop on his way to a career in the NBA."

The Breakers have won the NBL four times in the last nine years.

"We are thrilled to have R.J. Hampton join the New Zealand Breakers next season," Breakers chief executive Matt Walsh said. "To secure a player of his talent is a tremendous endorsement of our program and a coup for our club."

"The NBL is the best league in the world outside of the NBA and attracting a talent like R.J. is a testament to where our club and the league is on the world stage."

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