RJ Hampton continues to impress.
Against Melbourne United last Saturday, the young Breaker finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds (both career highs). Adding two steals, a block and zero turnovers, the point guard showed both a level of poise and controlled spontaneity out on the court.
Clearly a ‘we-first’ rather than ‘me-first’ type of play, throughout the second quarter, RJ continued to beat United with the pass. He recorded only one assist for the contest, but could have easily had six or seven, had his teammates connected on their open looks. At one point in the quarter, Hampton hit Tom Abercrombie for two consecutive wide-open threes from the corner, only to sprint back on D as both the shots rattled out. “I’ll always make that pass to assist,” Hampton said post-game. “It felt like when I was doing that we were in a good place.”
The Breakers could have turned to their playmaker more – especially as a creator in the pick and roll – but instead heavily relied on iso play from their wings. New Zealand have talented one on one scorers across the perimeter (in Scotty Hopson, Sek Henry and Corey Webster), but when their mid-range shots aren’t dropping, their offence has a tendency to stagnate. Hampton, on the hand, repeatedly beat his man off the dribble, turning corners and opening up driving lanes for his entire team. Turning defensive rebounds into quick-hitting transition opportunities, Hampton was particularly explosive in the open court – scrambling Melbourne’s coverage with his lightning fast speed.
With the game on the line, Hampton was also handed the responsibility of guarding Chris Goulding. Attempting to “run him off his line”, Hampton forced Goulding into a fumble, and used his length and athleticism to aptly stifle any easy lanes to the rim. It was a big moment for the youngster – a sign that coach Shamir trusts Hampton to come through when it matters most. “[Hampton’s] a key guy for us,” Shamir said afterwards, “so he should be doing that consistently.”
In the end, United scraped out a much-needed win, 104-98. However, for a player who is vying for a top five spot in next year’s NBA draft, the game was a major boon for RJ Hampton’s visibility and confidence at the professional level. Cementing his selfless reputation, Hampton proved that he can both promote his individual talents whilst simultaneously putting his team into a position to succeed.