Today I want to talk about a 2020 kid who really caught my attention. I had heard about him but finally got the chance to catch one of his games while in Vegas, and I was very impressed with what I saw in RJ Hampton.
RJ is a 16-year-old, 6-4 point guard out of Texas. He’s a rising sophomore and he’s got one of the most polished skill sets I saw this summer, and that includes the 2018 and 2019 kids. He’s got a quick crossover, a nice hesi move, and already has an understanding of how to read pick & rolls. And all of this allows him to do what he does best, attack the basket. And even when help rotates over, he’s got counter moves and is able to finish well in traffic, whether it’s going through contact or putting up a floater.
When pushing the ball in transition he showed the ability to make the right pass and get the ball ahead to open teammates. And because of his natural scoring ability, he’s able to get into the lane, draw help, and find his open teammates for high percentage shots. This ability is what enables him to play the one or the two. He can definitely score but his ability to make plays for others makes him even tougher to stop. This makes him a triple threat in transition as well as in the half court, and as he matures as a player he can only get better in this area. Watch closely on this next play as he makes a left handed cross court pass off the bounce, it’s a high degree of difficulty and his man was able to knock it down because of his vision.
Now let’s look at him playing with his back to the basket. The way he backed his man down, got him off balance, spun off and hit the floater clean off the glass is the definition of a polished skill set. I’d have to really go back into my notes over the past few years to try and remember someone who had that in his skill set as well as a turnaround jumper from the mid-post, and he makes them look natural.
One of the main things we look at in a guard is whether or not he can shoot it. And RJ Hampton made it clear right away that he was able to knock it down off the catch. But what was more impressive to me was the elevation, shot form, and release on his jumper. And then when he started knocking down pull-ups off the bounce, he assured me that I’m watching one of the best, if not the best guard in the 2020 class. Watch him play with patience as he gets the switch on the ball screen, square up and then go to his hesi-pull up from three, making it look easy. Even on his misses, he’s making the right reads off the ball screen as the defender shows and then retreats back to his man, giving RJ a window of time to pull-up. So even though he didn’t knock these down, they’re what we call a good miss because we’d want him to take that shot anytime it’s available.
Last, let’s look at his ability to get to the line. This is a skill in itself that many young players under value. But in this single game, RJ was able to get to the line 5 times, knocking down 8 of 10. So to sum it all up, I was very impressed with what I saw in RJ Hampton as he finished with 30 points against a good Compton Magic team. But it’s not that he scored 30 points, it’s how he scored 30 points, it’s the efficiency and skill set he put on display. He still has a long way to go, but it’s exciting to see his level of skill at a young age; so I’ll be looking forward to watching him progress, but for all you other young players, don’t forget to put him to the test. It’s not who starts out in the front of the pack, it’s who finishes at the front of the pack.