SKIPPING COLLEGE ON THE WAY TO THE NBA
Updated: Feb 4
This article was originally published on December 4th, 2019.
The path to getting drafted by an NBA team is not one which is well travelled. Only 1 in every 10,000 high school senior basketball players ever get drafted.
For those lucky few playing collegiate athletics is seen as the only real pathway between high school and the promised land of the NBA.
Ever since the “one and done” rule was implemented, which requires a player to be at least one year removed from high school before entering the NBA draft, many top high school prospects enter one year of college, ball out, and are drafted into the NBA the following spring.
However, there are a number of players who recently have been taking alternate routes to the NBA.
One player who chose to take an alternative route to the NBA, was Texas born point guard R.J. Hampton (@RjHampton14).
While in high school, Hampton recieved a lot of attention from a larger number of big college teams. The five-star prospect would even recieve offers from schools such as Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.
After discussing his options with his family, Hampton would make the bold decision to go play professional basketball overseas. He would end up signing contract rumoured to be north of $125,000 for the NBL's New Zealand Breakers.
“To secure a player of his talent is a tremendous endorsement of our program and a coup for our club,” Breakers chief executive Matt Walsh said.
“We think R.J. will have an important role to play as we look to compete for a championship and give him a great taste of what is a world-class league and provide an ideal platform for his NBA journey.”
With his name already on the radar of NBA scouts, Hampton has nothing to lose by going overseas. While at the same time being able to take a year to focus solely on basketball rather than trying to juggle classes and being an athlete.
"I just felt like at this point in my growing development, as a basketball player, I felt like I was ready for the next level and to take my talent to a professional league," Hampton said.
Hampton also stated that he never intended to play college basketball, as his dream was to be a professional basketball player.
“My dream has always been to get to the next level and play in the NBA,” Hampton told ESPN. “I think (the NBL) was the best route for me — to live like a pro and to play with grown men and not have to juggle books and basketball, and just focus on my main goal.”
Being part of the Breakers means that he will now get a year to be around a real team with good players and experienced coaches, adjusting to the lifestyle of a professional basketball player. He devotes more of his time to basketball and less to his math homework. It’s a win for the NBL, a win for the NBA, and especially a win for Hampton.
Hampton has not been the only player seeking an alternate path to the NBA. Oklahoma City Thunder's rookie forward Darius Bazley (@BazleyDarius), originally committed to play for Syracuse but he ended up de-committing and choosing to play in the NBA G-League for a year.
Bazley later announced that he would drop his G-League plans altogether, opting instead to train on his own for the season. While he would also began a three-month internship with New Balance worth $1 million. During this time he learned about the business side of basketball and worked with New Balance on endorsements.
Despite not playing a game in the public eye for a whole year, Bazley was still drafted at No. 23 overall by the Thunder.
Hampton and Bazley headline a new way of thinking for NBA prospects. Why would they waste their time having to split their life between school and sports?
Why would they go into the NCAA, where it’s still a contentious issue about whether or not players can even be paid?
Both players are now eligible to sign endorsement contracts a year earlier by moving away from the rules of collegiate basketball. These two players are paving the way for other top prospects to do the same and the writing could be on the wall for the NCAA. They need to make some changes, or else they risk losing out on top talent to other leagues around the world.
If these options don't suit future,NBA prospects moving to Europe is also proving a great place to prove your value.