Why Kansas target R.J. Hampton is more than just a big name

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Things are starting to clear up a little regarding the future of Class of 2020 guard R.J. Hampton.

A little.

According to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Corey Evans things are currently “looking good” for a possible Hampton-to-Kansas-in-2019 scenario.

The 6-foot-5 guard who is ranked No. 5 overall by Rivals.com in the Class of 2020 has been considering reclassifying into the 2019 class for quite some time. And it now looks like that process is moving closer toward being a reality.

If it is, Evans believes the move could benefit Kansas big time.

“Hampton does have to gain the proper credits this summer to become eligible to enroll this fall,” Evans wrote this week. “But if everything aligns properly, the elite talent will be Lawrence-bound.”

Adding a player of Hampton’s ability and talent would be a huge lift for a Kansas recruiting class that currently has just two signees with an average ranking of No. 99 and lots of room to grow.

But there’s more to the Little Elm, Texas, prospect than his lofty ranking and big name. I found that out by chance earlier this year, when walking up to the KU-TCU game in Fort Worth, Texas, where I ran into a high school coach from the area who had long been a follower and fan of Kansas basketball and spent some time around Hampton.

Naturally, I asked him what he thought.

I didn’t write down the exact quotes or record the impromptu interview. The game that night, you might recall, tipped off at 8 p.m. on Big Monday and I was more interested in finding a way to prepare to hit a tight deadline than dive into a story about one of the best players in the 2020 class.

Had I known then that we were potentially this close to Hampton reclassifying and making a decision about his future, I might have chosen otherwise or jotted a few things down.

The main thing I remember about the short conversation was how the coach, who was an assistant in the league Hampton’s Little Elm team played in, gushed about Hampton’s character.

Great kid. Great family. Personable guy. Everyone loves him. Those descriptions, and more, came pouring out of the coach’s mouth, as if he himself were a member of Hampton’s family. He wasn’t.

Quickly, the conversation turned to basketball, too. And, as luck would have it, Hampton was coming off of a monster week during which he scored 84 points in two games, including a 50-point effort that featured 10 3-pointers and 10 rebounds.

So, yeah. Talking about his game was inevitable. The thing that stood out there was the coach’s perspective on Hampton’s size, smooth skills and ability to make the game easier for his teammates and also how it looked so easy for him, too.

At 6-foot-5, 180 pounds with serious hops, the coach said there was not a player in the prep ranks who Hampton could not elevate over for an uncontested jumper.

Add to that his athleticism, length and desire and the coach, somewhat predictably, classified Hampton as a special player.

The final thing I recall from the conversation that spanned a few hundred feet was how well the assistant coach thought Hampton and Kansas coach Bill Self would mesh.

The coach had worked a handful of Self’s camps over the years and followed Self’s career for the past couple of decades. In his opinion, Self was exactly the style of coach that could get the most out of Hampton during his college days.

Time will tell if that ever becomes an option. But it’s closer today than it was back in February.

Hampton is down to a final four of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Memphis and could make a decision, both about reclassifying and his college of choice, by the end of May if not sooner.

In addition to highlighting KU’s chances of landing him, Evans also recently categorized Duke’s odds as “nearly non-existent,” Kentucky’s as “on the outside looking in” and Memphis as being in “a great spot.”

The difference between Memphis and KU, according to Evans, is Self.


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