Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
R.J. Hampton looking to win second straight gold medal with USA Basketball, plans to cut college list during winter
By ADAM ZAGORIAR.J. Hampton is only 17 years old and he is already seeking his second gold medal with USA Basketball.
The 6-foot-4 combo guard from Little Elm (TX) captured a gold medal last year at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Now he’s among 12 finalists for the USA team at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup which runs June 30-July 8.
“It would mean a lot,” he said by phone this week. “Not a lot of people at 17 years old can say they’re a two-time gold medalist, so I really just want to represent our country and have USA stay on top.”
Hampton is a versatile player who can play multiple positions.
“Whatever role USA Basketball wants me to play, if that’s the one, two to three, even the four, I’m happy playing it, just to go to Argentina and represent my country,” he said.
Hampton is one of several returning players from the U16 team, including Scottie Barnes (University School/West Palm Beach, Fla.); Vernon Carey Jr.(University School/Southwest Ranches, Fla.); Jalen Green (San Joaquin Memorial H.S./Fresno, Calif.); R.J. Hampton (Little Elm H.S./Little Elm, Texas); De’Vion Harmon (Guyer H.S./Corinth, Texas); Wendell Moore Jr. (Cox Mill H.S./Charlotte, N.C.); Jeremy Roach (Paul VI Catholic H.S./Leesburg, Va.); Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.); and Romeo Weems (New Haven H.S./New Haven, Mich.).
“First of all, it was very difficult to get down to 12,” said USA U17 head coach Don Showalter. “We feel the 12 that we have fit what we need, versatility. They can play different positions. We got some shooters. We got some slashers. So, I think the 12 we have kind of has the whole package for us.”
On the recruiting front, Hampton began taking phone calls from college coaches at midnight on June 15.
“Yeah, I got like seven, eight calls at midnight,” he said. “I heard from Texas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan, Florida State, Texas Tech, TCU, hometown schools like that.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was among the head coaches to check in.
“Coach K, he was just telling me that he was excited to kick off the recruiting process,” he said. “I was their first offer in 2020. He said he was excited to get the ball rolling and build a better relationship with me and my family.”
As for guys he might want to play with in college, Hampton likes a couple of his USA Basketball teammates.
“I really like the way Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green play,” he said. “We can all play the one, two, three positions, share the ball. And then I like the motor Scottie Barnes brings to the team.”
Going forward, Hampton said he will just “feel schools out” and then by December or January “make a top seven or top eight to focus on the schools I know I would want to go to.”
Running with Mudiay Elite, Hampton leads the Under Armour Association circuit with 24.6 points and ranks second with 6.0 assists per game. According to 247Sports, Hampton is the No. 4 player in the 2020 class and the No. 2 combo guard.
“I’m looking to bring it on the defensive end at first,” he said. “I want to be known as a two-way player when I go to college. I want to be known as a guy that looks for his teammates first but at the same time can get to the basket and shoot the three.”
After Argentina, Hampton will have to travel straight to Atlanta for the Under Armour finals.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Photo: USA Basketball
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.