Remember the highly-anticipated announcement 2019 five-star combo guard RJ Hampton made on ESPN’s Get Up earlier this week?
According to Hampton himself, it was all for show.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, the 6-foot-4 athlete out of Little Elm, TX said that he actually made the decision to play overseas and signed with the New Zealand Breakers a month ago.
“The moment I knew I was not gonna play college basketball and go overseas was probably like a month ago when we like made the decision and signed the contract,” he said. “Like I didn’t tell anyone. When I couldn’t tell anybody, people were always speculating. Like some people would say it to my face, like, “Are you thinking about going overseas?” I’d just be like “I’ve got my top three, like Kansas, Memphis, and [Texas] Tech.”‘
RJ Hampton signed his New Zealand contract a month ago but couldn’t tell anyone. So he let them guess ? pic.twitter.com/7pfrikWrfg
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 30, 2019
Sources told KSR around the time of his reclassification that the overseas option was a serious one for Hampton, though the majority of buzz at the time was with China, not New Zealand. I was also told at the time that the five-star prospect would likely sign a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Puma, which is still the expectation in the near future.
Oddly enough, right around the time of the overseas rumblings was when Kentucky’s momentum died out a bit. I was told that Hampton and his family liked Kentucky the most out of all college options and that if he had stayed in the class of 2020 or if space cleared out in 2019, UK would have been the likely choice.
With the Kentucky backcourt filled and Hampton’s desire to get to the NBA as fast as possible not fitting in with UK’s timeline, it just didn’t work out for either side.
In fact, down at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, FL, Kentucky head coach John Calipari told reporters that he was aware of Hampton’s serious interest in playing overseas.
“I was surprised it was New Zealand, but I had heard that he was trying to [go overseas],” he said. “But I wish him well, he’s a good kid, it’s a good family.”
Hampton knew he was never going to play for Kansas or Memphis, but still led Bill Self and Penny Hardaway on like they had a shot for an entire month?
I need an RJ Hampton-New Zealand Breakers jersey pronto.