- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 7:56AM
The New Zealand Breakers have signed point guard RJ Hampton, a player widely considered a first-round pick in the NBA draft next year.
The 18-year-old has the sought-after five-star ranking from every credible basketball recruiting website in the United States. ESPN awarded the 1.96m teen an astounding 96/100 rating.
Hampton received offers from some leading American basketball colleges including Duke, Kansas and Kentucky.
The decision to turn his back on them and instead play in Auckland will be greeted with shock in the US.
"RJ is our first international recruit for the upcoming season and we have plenty more exciting announcements ahead," said Breakers owner Matt Walsh.
Hampton had 30.3 points, 8 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game as a sophomore at Little Elm High School in Texas.
The Texan says the decision to play in Auckland was easy because of the Australian NBL's reputation as one of the world's best leagues outside the NBA.
He will join the Breakers as part of the Hungry Jack's NBL Next Stars programme.
"It's an honour to be a part of the NBL's Next Stars programme and to be joining a team with such a successful history as the Breakers," said Hampton.
"It's going to be the perfect next step for me as I continue along the path towards fulfilling my dream of playing in the NBA."
American Brian Bowen jnr became the first NBL Next Star when he played for the Sydney Kings last season and he will be eligible for next month's NBA draft.
"We're delighted RJ will join New Zealand this season and look forward to seeing him develop as a professional basketballer on his way to a career in the NBA," said NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger.
"The Next Stars programme is not just a great opportunity for young players to launch their professional careers but also brings the attention of the NBL and other players to NBA talent scouts."
Hampton was a member of the US Fiba Under-17 World Cup team which won gold in Argentina last year.
This article was originally published at nzherald.co.nz and is reproduced here with permission