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RJ Hampton to skip college, play professionally in New Zealand

This is not a complete surprise.

College basketball recruiting is like a circus.

It’s a fun show, a lot of things that do not make sense, and an occasional surprise that most do not see coming. The big surprise for the 2019 recruiting cycle came Tuesday morning when news broke that top recruit RJ Hampton would forego college to play professional basketball in New Zealand.

RJ Hampton was the top combo card in the 2020 class before reclassifying to 2019 earlier this spring. He is now ranked as the No. 5 overall player in his new class.

Hampton could have chosen any school that he wanted, but by mid-May the list had been narrowed down to Kansas and Memphis. He said wanted to pick a college where he could play immediately and ultimately have the ball in his hands once he stepped on campus.

While both Memphis and Kansas seemed to fit his expectations, rumors of Hampton playing professionally have been lingering all spring. So while it is not a complete shocker that this is his final decision, he is heading into waters tread by very few.

The most notable high school stars to skip college to play abroad were Terrance Ferguson and Emmanuel Mudiay, both of which went on to be first round NBA Draft picks the following year.

“It’s never been a dream of his to play college basketball, it’s been a dream of his to use college basketball as a vehicle to get to the NBA,” Hampton’s father told 247Sports. “He’s playing against grown men. He’s learning how to practice like a pro, and learning how to do everything like a pro and I just think those options outweigh going to college.”

While the elder Hampton, Rod, believes his son is setting a trend with this decision, it is tough to imagine a large number of high school players electing to move across the world instead of playing college basketball. There is little doubt that Hampton will be an early selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, regardless of which path he chose. But for many, the exposure of college basketball in the United States is necessary to raise their NBA stock.

“He’ll definitely be more prepared for NBA life than if he went to college, and don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t for everybody,” Rod added.

Hampton will suit up for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL this fall, which is better for Kentucky fans than seeing him in a Memphis or Kansas jersey. You have to wish him the best of luck, while also hoping his success does not draw more top recruits away from college basketball.

Find out everything Rod Hampton said in his interview with 247Sports here.