RJ Hampton Training with Penny Hardaway to Prepare for 2020 NBA Draft

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2020

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Since March, prospective first-round pick RJ Hampton has been training with former NBA player and current Memphis Tigers head coach Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway ahead of the 2020 NBA draft, according to John Martin of The Athletic.  

"He told us he wanted to extend his knowledge and give back to RJ, because he thinks RJ is special," Hampton's father, Rod, told Martin. "He told us if RJ comes up here, you're gonna see what I do with him. When that phone rings, it's like [Barack] Obama calling. You pick that up. 'How may I help you, sir? I'm reporting for duty.'"

Hampton said Hardaway was helping him improve in a number of areas. 

"I can't pinpoint it exactly, but what he's teaching me—it's pick-and-roll, it's ball-handling. He's teaching me exactly what he's done," he said. "Penny's highlights are what he's teaching me."

Hampton is likely to be a first-round pick, though where exactly he lands after a season playing overseas in Australia's NBL is a point of contention. The Athletic's Sam Vecenie has him 20th on his big board, while B/R's Jonathan Wasserman has him 16th.

Wasserman noted that Hampton "excels at attacking downhill, and with 6'5" size, a quick first step and athleticism, his transition and driving games should translate. Flashes of shot-making and secondary playmaking point to more upside as a scorer and creator in the half court."

He also noted that he didn't have any special traits that stood out above the rest and cited his poor three-point shooting (29.5 percent) and mediocre assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4 assists per game compared to 1.5 turnovers). 

Spencer @SKPearlman

RJ Hampton's shot is one people should be buying, but I think part of the reason for the inconsistent results on C&S despite the upper body form is because of his lower body set - most notably, he brings his right leg in close on the set and then it sort of pops out. Video below: https://t.co/PXl3TJzD93

As for Hardaway showing interest in Hampton's game, Rod Hampton believes it's a reflection of Hardaway being truly invested in developing players, even those who didn't choose to play for him at Memphis.

"I think it's a symbol of—does Bill Self do this? Does Coach K do this? No," he said. "Penny was once RJ. A kid aspiring to be in the NBA. This hits so close for him. He sees something, and he wants RJ to be a successful pro."