Is top 5 Class of 2020 prospect R.J. Hampton an option for Kansas in the Class of 2019?
It’s far from a given and might not amount to anything, but the recruitment of Class of 2020 guard R.J. Hampton is a shining example of how things are never as bad as they might seem in recruiting because angles always exist and coaches never stop working.
With the start of the spring signing period now one week away and the Kansas men’s basketball program sitting with just two players signed in its 2019 class — a group that figures to come with some serious importance both next year and beyond — many KU fans have begun to grumble about what’s going on with KU’s recruiting.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Big surprise, right? Aren’t fans always grumbling about recruiting in one way or another?
Although that does seem to be the case — mostly because fans of all programs always seem to believe their school should sign three or four of the top 10 players in every class — it makes a little more sense this time around, given that both of KU’s 2019 signees, guards Christian Braun and Issac McBride, are ranked outside of the top 100, leaving a sizable hole in the area usually filled by an Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson or Quentin Grimes.
There is, however, still time, and the Jayhawks remain in the mix for some of the top talent in the country.
Top 40 shooting guard Cassius Stanley will make his decision between KU, UCLA and Oregon on April 17. I read recently that he hasn’t heard from UCLA in weeks and, with a new coach in the mix out there, this one could be down to the Jayhawks and Ducks.
Top 10 prospect Matt Hurt, whom many have trending hard toward Duke down the homestretch, will announce his choice on April 19.
Those decisions we’ll know soon enough. And landing either player — let alone both — would be a huge boost to KU’s current class.
The rest of the list remains a bit uncertain, none more so than Hampton, who is ranked as the No. 5 overall player in the 2020 class and considered by many recruiting analysts to be the top prep guard in the country regardless of class.
Hampton recently trimmed his list to a final four, with KU, Duke, Kentucky and Memphis making the cut and in-state TCU being eliminated.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In a couple of different interviews and on his own blog on USAToday.com — "The RJ Way" — Hampton said recently that he was back to considering reclassifying into the 2019 class, which would put him on a college campus in a matter of months and give one of those four finalists yet another shot at hitting the jackpot.
All four have compelling pitches to make, and all four can promise to put other elite talent around Hampton. The biggest thing that many have pointed to as the factor that could make Hampton’s decision is his desire to play point.
But with Devon Dotson expected to return to KU and freshman point guards Tre Jones and Ashton Hagans recently announcing their intentions to return to Duke and Kentucky for their sophomore seasons, it looks like that could be less of a given no matter where Hampton goes.
Good thing, too. Because, according to the 6-foot-5, 175-pound 5-star prospect from Little Elm, Texas, that requirement is not actually that big of a factor after all, and he addressed it in his recent blog entry.
“A lot of people think I just want to run the point and that’s it,” Hampton wrote. “I do want to do that too, but if the coach needs me to play off the ball sometimes and guard the two or the three at times I’m fine with that too. I actually think playing with another elite point guard is a more attractive option because either one of us can bring it down and I can do what I do best and score the ball. I think that makes us a more dangerous team. Like you just saw today that Tre Jones is staying at Duke and I think that’s great. Kansas has Devon; all of the schools have really strong point guards, so, again, that only makes it a more attractive option for me.”
If you’ve watched any of Hampton’s highlight videos (see below) and know how Dotson plays, it’s not hard to get excited about the prospect of the two running the floor together for the Jayhawks next season. In many ways, the pairing seems like a perfect fit.
It only has a chance of happening, though, if Hampton reclassifies.
He also addressed that in the blog and said he expected to make a final decision in the next couple of months.
“I’m considering reclassifying to 2019 at this point,” he wrote. “I just wanted to see how the teams’ seasons ended and how the rosters were stacking up. What I’ll really be looking at with this decision is who’s there and how I’ll fit in with next year’s squad. I just really want to know how I’d be used in the system.”
In both his Monday blog and a recent sit-down interview with Krysten Peek of Rivals.com, Hampton broke down all of his finalists and had this to say about Kansas.
“With Kansas the main thing I like is the culture and the family vibe that Coach (Bill) Self and Coach (Jerrance) Howard have presented to me,” Hampton wrote. “They’ve been there since my freshman year and I love what they have going on.”
On camera with Peek, he added: “The Kansas relationship has been great. I mean, Coach Self, Coach Jerrance Howard, all the coaching staff has just been great. And when I go down there, all the players treat me like family and the fan base is amazing. They probably have the best fan base in the country when it comes to basketball.”
KU and Memphis are the only programs on his list of finalists that Hampton has used official visits to see, and there’s some chatter that both that fact and the crowded backcourt situations at Duke and Kentucky could leave KU and Memphis as the current leaders.
Time will tell how all of this plays out. And, again, if Hampton elects to stay in high school and waits until 2020 to go to college, that could change things drastically.
But if he reclassifies and joins the 2019 class, landing him in the coming months would be a big time get for a Kansas recruiting class that, at least on paper, appears to be off to a start that's slower than usual.
Here’s a quick look at Hampton’s interview with Peek, which was recorded during Final Four weekend and before he eliminated TCU. It’s still worth watching to get a feel for Hampton's personality.