On the day the 2019-20 college basketball season begins, R.J. Hampton has endured a series of trials and tribulations in the aftermath of his decision to bypass the NCAA and play professionally with the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League.
Per The Athletic's Dana O'Neil, Hampton's transition overseas hasn't been totally smooth with him being benched in an exhibition game, the Breakers' general manager quitting and an assistant coach walking away while the team was at an airport.
"It's definitely hard," he said. "I have good days and I have bad days. I wish I could wake up and know what I did these last 28 games and I'd be home. If someone gave me a wish and said, 'R.J., you gotta live with whatever outcome, but you could go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and those 28 games are played.' I'm taking that risk. I'm taking that risk."
Hampton announced in May he signed a deal with New Zealand, giving up scholarship offers to Kansas, Texas Tech and Memphis. He also wanted to challenge himself in a professional league before returning to the United States to play in the NBA.
"My No. 1 goal is to play in the NBA," he said on ESPN's Get Up. "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."
O'Neil noted Hampton wasn't promised a starting job from the Breakers when he signed with the team, but the organization regularly asks only him to stay on the court after games to sign autographs and is aware he's the biggest drawing card on the roster.
B/R's Jonathan Wasserman currently has Hampton projected to go No. 10 overall to the Atlanta Hawks in his most recent mock draft: "It's been an up-and-down start for RJ Hampton with the New Zealand Breakers. But since he's only 18 years old, the positives outweigh the negatives. He looked like he belonged during his first two pro games in Australia's NBL, flashing shot-making skill, playmaking and finishing athleticism at the rim."
Hampton has appeared in six games for New Zealand this season. The 18-year-old is averaging 23.9 minutes, 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 49 percent from the field.