High School basketball star RJ Hampton announced today that he will be foregoing College Basketball and instead opting to play professional ball immediately for a year until he becomes eligible for the NBA draft. Hampton announced his decision on ESPN’s “Get Up” morning show that he will be bringing his talents to the New Zealand Breakers.
Here are some of Hampton’s thoughts on the decision and why he is opting to skip the college system altogether.
“My No. 1 goal is to play in the NBA. I wanted to be an NBA player before I ever wanted to be a college player. This is about getting ready for the next level faster and more efficiently. Both of my parents went to college. My mom got her master’s degree. Education is a big thing in our family, but this is about focusing 100 percent on basketball.” – RJ Hampton (via ESPN’s Get Up)
Now, this wouldn’t be the first time we have seen a player opt to play professionally abroad rather than go into the flawed college one and done system. A system that pretends to put an importance on education for players that will only be on campus for a total of 8 or 9 months. He wouldn’t be the first, but he certainly seems to be the most talented thus far to make the decision. Hampton ranked as a 5-star recruit and the 5th ranked overall player of the 2020 recruiting class. He is almost a sure shot to become a lottery draft pick when he eventually declares for the NBA.
When asked for a comment on the situation, part owner of the Breakers, PFT Commenter of Barstool Sports had this to say.
All joking aside and even though PFT is a real owner, the significance of this move shouldn’t be undersold and rightfully should have the NCAA and its coaches concerned. There has been much criticism of the one and done athlete in men’s college basketball. While Division 1 basketball is still the top tier of talent in terms of a league outside the NBA, that only really applies to the United States. Euro Leagues like Liga ACB, the one Luka Dončić hailed from, and others such as NBL where the Breakers play, have real talent and allow the athletes to focus solely on basketball. There are no classes and grade point averages to uphold while trying to manage a full workload of basketball and travel during the season.
Hampton is throwing a wrench into this broken system that seems destined to change anyways in the coming years. With the growth of the G-League, the NBA’s own developmental league, and more and more options becoming available for top tier high school talent, I believe before long we could see a phasing out of the one and done. Which believe it or not, would be good for not just the players but for College Basketball as well.
While in the coming days, Hampton will receive praised and scrutiny from both sides, it’s key to remember this. What other professions in the world are you not entitled to earn money from your skill if you are one of the best in the world at it? A 17-year-old genius will get a free ride to MIT and be able to get paid for work he does outside school if he chooses. Also, in this very country, we also have 15- and 16-year old’s making millions of dollars creating YouTube and Instagram videos and there are no restrictions on that. Let these athletes make the best decisions for themselves and their families. College Basketball has made enough money off these kids. It’s time for a change, I’m happy to see it finally starting to happen.