R.J. Hampton, a 6’5″ point guard from Little Elm, Texas, attended and played basketball for his local school, Little Elm High School. Being one of the more exciting high school prospects, Hampton received many offers from top Division I schools. These schools included Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas Tech, and Memphis. Despite all of the opportunities to play college basketball, Hampton opted to play overseas for a year.
Hampton picked up and moved to Australia, where he was a part of the New Zealand Breakers team in the NBL. Hampton signed a multi-year deal with the club, but with an option to leave for the NBA. After six months with the team, Hampton left Australia and returned home to prepare for the 2020 NBA draft.
Time in New Zealand
In fifteen games with the Beakers, R.J. Hampton averaged a modest 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, while shooting at a 40.7% clip from the field. His production was a bit underwhelming. However, for a nineteen-year-old to jump head-first into a professional basketball environment is impressive. The bravery and courage of Hampton in taking this unconventional path should be commended. It demonstrates something significant about the maturity of the young man.
What Makes Hampton Special?
R.J. Hampton has a natural feel for basketball and always seems confident with the ball in his hands. His ball-handling skills are perhaps his greatest strength, which allows him to control the offense and the game’s tempo. Along with his sharp ball handling, Hampton has excellent court vision and is quick and strong off the dribble. This combination allows him to navigate and break down opposing defenses easily. His drives to the hoop are very smooth, as is his ability to finish very strong. Hampton is aggressive on the offensive end and can create space for himself and maintain his body control.
Hampton’s length and athleticism make him a dangerous player in transition. These attributes also give him a good defensive matchup for smaller guards. While he had some trouble defensively with the Breakers, this is understandable since he was guarding bigger and more experienced professional players than college players who are as undeveloped and raw as he is. His 6’7″ wingspan, quickness, and strong footwork make his potential as an oversized guard very exciting. With some time developing his strength, Hampton could turn into an elite defender. If Hampton becomes a strong defender, he could also guard different positions, giving him more options to contribute to his team.
While Hampton displays great skills as a basket-attacker, his game is not so well-rounded as he has problems shooting the ball from the outside. Hampton needs to tweak his shooting mechanics and work on his shot selection to improve his efficiency. Hampton recognizes this himself and worked with NBA veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller, after his stint in the NBL, to work on his shot. In an interview with The Athletic, Miller said that “the biggest thing for him is that he’s bought in this early.” Even as a potential lottery pick, Hampton was willing to completely break down his shooting form and start from scratch to improve. This shows a lot about the kind of dedication and work ethic Hampton has for his game and the discipline he has as a person. As a nineteen-year-old, to see this kind of self-motivation is special and should certainly boost his draft stock.
R.J. Hampton is not a polished prospect, and no one should expect him to dominate the league in his first couple of years. He is a project and has some holes in his game that he needs to work on to become more than just a one-dimensional player. But he also has tremendous upside and a high ceiling with all of his raw talent, size, quickness, and athleticism. He is one of the more intriguing draft prospects in the 2020 draft class, but whichever team drafts him needs to be patient and provide him with a lot of guidance.