RJ Hampton says the “no joke” NBL has prepared him well for the NBA, which he is moving back to the US to prepare for.
The teenager, who turns 19 on Friday, is leaving the Breakers effective immediately to return home and recover from the hip injury that has kept him out since early December.
“I think we all in the organisation thought it would be best, I’m not healthy enough to get back on the court, to go home and prepare and get healthy for the draft,” Hampton said.
With Hampton a potential top 10 pick in June, Hampton felt the NBL would hold him in good stead in the NBA and would recommend coming down under as a path for other NBA hopefuls to take.
“For sure, I think I’ve definitely grown here, and it will show next year,” he said.
“This league is no joke and really gets you ready for the next level.”
Hampton played 15 games for the Breakers in his first season as a professional, averaging 22.1 minutes, 8.8 points, 2.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds a game.
The 18-year-old and his father batted away questions about his limited minutes with the Breakers, saying they were confident his draft stock remained high.
“He didn’t come down here to play 30 or 40 minutes,” Hampton's father Rod said.
“I think he came here as a top five pick, I think we’re leaving here as a top five pick.”
“I watch college basketball religiously, you his peers, no one is playing against this competition.”
Though Rod was certainly not limiting his son to just the top five in June’s draft.
“Realistically, number one.” he said. That’s my prayer, my preparation and it’s the right team. If a team that falls in love with him gets the number one pick, they’re going to pick him.
“I think pound for pound, he’s the best perimeter player, but if a team needs a centre, then I’ll go with James Wiseman.”
The biggest challenge for Hampton, particularly early on, was the physicality.
“At first it was just the strength, you saw in the first couple of games trying to take advantage of the physical, going into game 10, 12 they couldn’t do that.
“He’s put on 15 pounds (7kg).”