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'Like NBA with training wheels' - How US media, basketball world reacted to Breakers signing top Texas prospect RJ Hampton

The New Zealand Breakers latest signing has sent waves around the basketball world this morning after it was revealed the Kiwi NBL club managed to nab a prospect many consider to be a top-five pick in the next NBA draft.

RJ Hampton's decision to play for the Breakers next season has led to mass discussions overseas, particularly in the US, about top NBA prospects turning down the usual college basketball route to take professional contracts elsewhere.

Currently, players must be one-year removed from high school in the US to be eligible for the NBA, meaning most top athletes head to college on a "one-and-done" year deal before progressing to professional careers.

RJ Hampton Source: Getty

Athletes who play for US colleges don't get paid for their performances despite team sponsorships and games being broadcast on national TV - an issue that has been debated more and more in recent years.

Hampton is part of a growing group of athletes who are seeing potential elsewhere, playing a year overseas while getting paid before declaring for the NBA draft.

USA TODAY columnist Dan Wolken said it's a trend that won't shake the NCAA though.

"To say that Hampton is about to inspire an exodus of elite basketball prospects from using the collegiate system as a springboard to the NBA is just wrong.

"The bottom line is that for all its flaws and inequities, the NCAA has constructed the best developmental path for most players."

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told SportsDay HS Hampton's exposure won't take a dip from the move.

"Ultimately, the truth is on the court, but for his sake, as long as he stays healthy, all 30 [NBA] teams will be down there watching him next year ... it's kind of like the NBA with training wheels for somebody like RJ Hampton."

NBA stars were also getting in on the announcement with recently retired NBA champion and 13-time All Star Dwyane Wade saying he "loved" it on Instagram while Celtics guard Marcus Smart said he had nothing but respect for the decision.

Closer to his new home, news.com.au were claiming a big win - for Australia.

"The tremors around the US are turning into shockwaves after Australian basketball pulled off another stunning signing coup," they said.

"The NBL must be beginning to scare the hell out of the NCAA — offering a reasonable payday before the NBA Draft as well as real experience playing in a professional league against grown men."

Hampton will join the Breakers as part of the NBL's Next Stars programme, meaning he won't take up one of the team's spots in the roster or affect their salary

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The 18-year-old turned down offers from some of the biggest US colleges to play for the Auckland club. Source: Breakfast


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