What's next for KU with R.J. Hampton now off the board?
So R.J. Hampton is headed to New Zealand and the Kansas men’s basketball program prepares to move on without him.
There’s no denying that Tuesday morning’s announcement was one of the biggest in college basketball recruiting in years, but there’s even less doubt that it caught the Kansas program off guard.
KU coach Bill Self and his staff no doubt were prepared for Hampton to make this type of decision and therefore are prepared to move forward without him, just like every other college program out there will have to do, as well.
Adding Hampton to KU’s lineup would have been a significant move for Self and the Jayhawks. But even without Hampton Kansas remains a Top 5 team and, perhaps more importantly, still has the potential to add several pieces in the weeks ahead given the scholarships still unspoken for.
One player who immediately moves to the top of the watch list is Hampton’s best friend, 4-star prospect Jalen Wilson, who is expected to visit KU later this week.
Before we jump back into Wilson, let’s take a quick look at some of the areas of Kansas basketball that Hampton’s decision affects the most.
• All eyes shift to Grimes and Dotson
With the deadline for underclassmen to pull out of the 2019 NBA draft pool arriving tomorrow, the decisions of current Jayhawks Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes suddenly become even bigger.
It was believed all along that Dotson would return and Grimes would leave, but, with KU missing out on Hampton, the door is wide open for both to return. Hampton’s father said all along that he could see his son picking Kansas even if Dotson and Grimes returned, but now, Kansas could certainly use both of them.
Remember, Grimes, who had a rough freshman season, was at one time projected as a lottery pick. And Dotson, who did well at the NBA combine but likely remains a year away, has the potential to become one of the best point guards in college basketball next season and might already be there anyway.
Getting both of them back would be a bigger score than landing Hampton because both have played a year of college ball, both are familiar with Self and KU and both have elite, pro potential and would be armed with fresh feedback about what they need to work on to get to the next level.
• What’s the story with Jalen Wilson?
Another player who figures to draw a fair amount attention here is former Michigan signee Jalen Wilson, Hampton’s best friend who is scheduled to visit KU later this week after getting his release from Michigan following the Wolverines’ coaching change.
It’s far from a done deal that Wilson will come to KU and having Hampton on board certainly would have made the idea of landing in Lawrence all the more enticing, but remember, it was Wilson himself who said people were jumping the gun a little when predicting that the two friends were automatically headed to the same place.
A different player, at a different position, than Hampton, the 6-foot-8, 210-pound Wilson still would be a welcome addition to the KU roster and would bring Kansas even more offensive and defensive versatility than it already has.
What about the idea of Wilson joining Hampton in New Zealand? I suppose anything’s possible, but there’s no way the demand for a 4-star prospect like Wilson is nearly as high in New Zealand.
Landing Hampton was a game changer for that franchise and could very well pave the way for all kinds of future victories with similar talents.
Wilson, though extremely talented, would not command the same size contract that Hampton got and, therefore, would be taking a big risk to go overseas for less money and an uncertain future.
Hampton, as long as he stays healthy, is going to remain firmly on the NBA radar in New Zealand the same as he would by playing in college.
Wilson probably needs college more, both in terms of skill development and as a marketing tool, to better position himself for what lies ahead in terms of making the jump to the NBA and earning potential.
Wilson’s visit to KU is slated for May 30-June 1 and should be considered just as important as anything Hampton was doing given the fact that, even if Dotson and Grimes return, KU still has a couple of scholarships to hand out to players in the 2019 class.
• Speaking of those scholarships, what now?
This is a good question and I don’t doubt for a second that Self and company have their Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D white board ready to roll.
With Hampton off the board and a couple of players still to decide, the Jayhawks have at least two scholarships still to hand out. That number will grow to three if one of Dotson or Grimes decides to leave and four if they both stay in the draft.
But, as of now, the number is at least two.
Wilson clearly is one of the top options to take one of those and mining the country for the best available pure shooter would be the best way to go with the other.
That might be a prospect who is committed but unsigned. That might be a prospect who ranks in the mid-100s and won’t make headlines but could fill a role as a player who could stretch the floor for a KU roster in need of outside shooting. That might be a juco transfer or one of the handful of grad transfers still out there. And that might be a player (or two) who is a traditional transfer who would have to sit out the 2019-20 season.
Remember, KU has had some success with those types of players of late.
The point is this: The possibilities are endless, even if the pool of talent is not.
KU has flexibility to do whatever it wants. And, in recruiting, that’s always a good thing to have on your side.
• What about the future?
Last, let's talk quickly about what Hampton's decision could mean for the future of recruiting these super-elite 5-star talents.
As noted above, the path to pro ball overseas will not be there for everybody. But there likely will be franchises in a dozen different countries lining up to pay players of Hampton's ability and that only figures to increase from this point on.
Long story short, as long as the NBA's one-and-done rule remains in place, the potential for future players of his caliber to follow in Hampton's footsteps increases. He said during his announcement that he wanted to be a trendsetter and this move certainly could open some eyes about this being a viable route to take.
That said, — and Hampton mentioned this — it's not for everybody. But it is now a much more available option than ever before and that has the potential to be a big blow to blue blood recruiting.
While more players like Hampton certainly could start looking more seriously at overseas options now that someone has broken the seal, the guess here is that this move will inspire the NBA to move a little quicker with some of the changes it needs to make so that these types of talents can jump straight from high school to the NBA again rather than watching them go overseas.
It won't be automatic. And there are plenty of reasons the NBA likes the system just the way it currently is. That is particularly true of the NBA's players' union.
But the last thing the NBA wants to see is another league in another country making moves to become not only another option but a desired destination for the best talent in the world.
The game is growing on the global stage like never before and this kind of threat is very real and has to be taken seriously. That alone should lead to some change. Because if a place like New Zealand can offer seven figures to a player like Hampton, what's to say there can't be more where that came from?
And if there is, how quickly does that option become more appealing than playing in say Cleveland, Sacramento, Minnesota or Orlando?
Time will tell. But the clock is now ticking.