Photo credit: MADE Hoops
RJ Hampton is a bucket.
He knows it. His opponents know it. Recruiting pundits and college scouts are well-aware.
His ability to put the ball in the basket has landed him 247 Sports' 5th-ranked recruit in their 2020 composite rankings. The 6-foot-5 junior is a wrecking-ball when attacking the basket and a smooth shooter from the perimeter.
When it comes to putting the ball in the bucket, Hampton has proven to be elite. He averaged 32.4 points per game as a junior for Little Elm (TX) high school, his second straight year averaging 30+. He also scored 20+ points in 29 of 30 games en route to being named First Team USA-Today All-American.
Compliments and accolades about his scoring-prowess aside, there are two things Hampton wants to make loud and clear before his final season of grassroots basketball.
"I can do a lot more than score," Hampton said, pausing to think about his next declaration.
"I want to show that I'm a winner."
Hampton's ability to score at-will has led many to forget about the other aspects of his developing skill-set, and he wants to use the EYBL circuit to prove to the basketball world that he can impact a game in a variety of different fashions - including pickings up wins.
Hampton averaged 9.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 3.9 steals per game along with his lofty scoring output. Translating his impressive statistics into wins is the number one goal for Hampton as he looks to test himself against the rigors of the Nike Circuit.
"Personally, for this season, I just want to showcase that I can do a lot more things than just put the ball in the basket," Hampton said. "I want to prove that I can lead a team and win. That's the main thing I want to do, show that I can lead a winning team."
RJ Hampton at USA Basketball Camp in Colorado Springs (Photo Credit: The Athletic)
For the first time ever, Hampton will be surrounded by elite talent. In past seasons, Hampton has been counted on to do the majority of the scoring, which is ultimately a responsibility that has limited his ability to showcase his facilitation skills.
"I was playing with Mudiay (last season) and my main thing was scoring the ball," Hampton said. "Now, my main thing is still scoring the ball, but I can get 10 assists too if I need to. With the team I have now on Drive Nation, I think I can do that."
Hampton will be running alongside at least eight Division 1 recruits on Drive Nation (TX), including several high-major prospects. There will be an adjustment period, but he's excited to make his teammates better.
"Learning to play with better guys is big for me," Hampton said. "On my past teams, I've had okay guys, but I was really just the main guy. Every time down the court it was most of my teammates looking for me. Now I'm playing with better guys and playing against better competition. That will make me better. I really want to showcase that I'm one of the best all-around playmakers in the country."
Hampton had a variety of suitors when he decided to make the move to the EYBL last winter. The deciding factor was simple; Jermaine O'Neal. The 18-year NBA veteran is the Director and Head Coach for the Dallas-based EYBL affiliate Drive Nation.
"The choices I had were Houston Hoops, the Titans, and Drive," Hampton explained. "The one thing that stood out to me is how Jermaine (O'Neal) cares about us. We'll practice at his house, and it's not like 'okay guys, bye'. We can chill over there. We can eat, he'll feed you. It's really a family environment. That's what I wanted to be around for my last year of AAU.
O'Neal manning the sidelines also resonated with Hampton.
"Yeah, it does," Hampton said when asked if it mattered that O'Neal was the head coach. "There are some basketball players that can't coach, but he knows the game. He knows the game in and out. He's really just teaching us all to be professionals no matter the level we play at."
Hampton operating at USA Basketball Final Four Minicamp (Photo credit: Rivals.com)
Three weeks before the EYBL kicks off, Hampton attended the USA Basketball Final Four mini-camp. The two-time gold medalist knows that representing his country is a rare opportunity, and he used it to get better before the start of the 2019 circuit.
"I mean, it's an honor," Hampton said of playing for his home country. "I'm blessed every single time I step on the court wearing the USA jersey. It's just an unbelievable dream come true. I've been dreaming of this forever. By winning two gold medals, it just keeps me wanting to come back. I really learned a lot here and I really love it here."
Hampton's focus is to have the winning continue this spring and summer. As an individual, he's focused on showcasing his versatility. For Drive Nation? Hampton was to-the-point.
"For the team," Hampton said.
"I don't want anything less than a Peach Jam Championship. "