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RJ Hampton signs after league boss ‘preaches the gospel of the NBL’ in USA

Basketball young-gun RJ Hampton has made the extraordinary decision to ignore several offers from top US colleges to instead play for the New Zealand Breakers in what is a major coup for the NBL.

The 18-year-old Texan is the fifth-highest ranked prospect overall in the 2020 NBA draft, and the 2nd ranked point-guard.

“Next year I will be going overseas to play in the Australian basketball league with the New Zealand Breakers,” Hampton told ESPN.

Hampton joins the NBL’s Next Star program, following in the footsteps of Terrance Ferguson who was drafted by Oklahoma City Thunder after electing to forego college offers to play with the Adelaide 36ers.

NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger says the league has been pressing the flesh in the USA, highlighting what’s on offer down under.

“We’ve been preaching the gospel of the NBL and the fact that there’s a renaissance of Australian basketball taking place,” Loeliger told David ‘Ox’ Schwarz and Matt Granland.

“We think we’re a fantastic platform to help them develop from amateurs into game hardened professionals and it seems to be getting some traction because, as you said, RJ Hampton is about as good a candidate that you could hope for.”

Players contracted under the Next Stars program sit outside the salary cap but Loeliger said the Breakers were so enthusiastic about signing Hampton that they have provided financial assistance in facilitating the deal.

“There are two reasons why RJ has gone to the Breakers, one is because the club were so keen to have him that they bent over backwards to be flexible with the arrangements that we needed to put into place to get him here,” Loeliger said.

“The second is that the roster suits him very, very well and I think he’s going to get some significant court time, and I think he’ll leave the competition in 2020 in much better shape than when he arrived.”

A Top 5 NBA draft prospect who sits outside the NBL salary cap makes one wonder whether the pencil has been sharpened as the chequebook was rolled out.

Will RJ Hampton be the highest paid player in the NBL?

“No, no he wouldn’t, it’s not that kind vicinity just yet,” Loeliger said.

“He’s a very credible young man and we’re of the view that these guys deserve to be paid for what they come and do, and it’s one of the reasons why a number of guys are considering alternatives to college basketball.”

The NBL is quickly becoming the destination league for straight-outta-highschool basketballers who wish to enter a professional league immediately and play against grown men week in, week out.

Australian basketball fans became aroused when NBA Champion Andrew Bogut announced he was returning to Australia to play in the NBL for the Sydney Kings, a team he also bought a stake in.

Top talent scouts are keeping a watchful eye on the NBL as it continues to develop into one of the world’s top English speaking professional league

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