Three-Point Play: Hampton on Kobe, 2021 commits, Florida recap
In today's Three-Point Play, Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans speaks with future NBA Draft pick R.J. Hampton on what Kobe Bryant meant to him, takes a look at a string of new 2021 commitments and recaps a recent tour of Florida.
1. R.J. HAMPTON DESCRIBES KOBE'S INFLUENCE
There isn’t an individual that I have come across that has not been affected in some way by the passing of Kobe Bryant. Sifting through various accounts on Twitter, I was taken back by some of the youth in the sport that took it harder than most. I wanted to reach out to someone and hear his own accounts on what Bryant meant to him in his own journey in the game, one that Bryant successfully took many years ago.
R.J. Hampton was born just three months before Bryant won his second NBA title. Hampton, who is on his way to being selected in the early portion in June’s NBA Draft, skipped the college game entirely, just as Bryant did 24 years ago.
Like most, Hampton couldn’t believe the news of Bryant’s death.
“My dad came in my room and said 'Kobe died in a helicopter.' I said 'What do you mean?' because if you tell me anybody has died, I’m going to ask how, but I said what do you mean about Kobe, because I truly in my heart didn’t think the man could die,” Hampton said. “He made me feel like he was invincible. I’ve had a handful of friends pass away and my mom told me she has never seen me so hurt like Sunday. Just crushed.”
Hampton had limited contact with Bryant, just a quick picture with him as a toddler and attending a few of Bryant’s games with Lakers, but all Hampton needed was a first memory of Bryant to inspire him and plant the seeds for his journey.
“It was probably his game-winner again the Suns, I was five,” Hampton said. “When I saw him pull his jersey across his chest, I thought to myself at 5-years-old, 'That guy is really happy playing basketball.'"
It is the same enthusiasm that Hampton brings to the court that scouts and evaluators have come to respect out of him. Close to completing his time in the NBL in the coming weeks, Hampton will regroup in his hometown of Little Elm, Tex., leading up to the NBA Draft. It doesn’t seem as if the lasting memory of Bryant and what he means to him, will burn out, which seems as if it could be said for the majority of the youth growing up within the sport.
“Kobe meant everything to me, like legit, everything,” Hampton said. “I wanted to be like him in every way. It’s hard to describe, kind of like he was my favorite superhero.”
2. COMMITMENTS PICK-UP IN 2021 CLASS
Members of the 2021 class have begun to come off the board in greater numbers in recent weeks.
Just 10 days ago, AJ Griffin, who pledged to Duke in November, was the only committed top-50 prospect in the 2021 class. Since then, three four-star prospects have come off of the board. Jaxson Robinson shocked many by choosing Texas A&M, UCLA made quick work of the recruitment of Will McClendon, and DePaul struck in the form of combo forward Keon Edwards. Oklahoma also did a good job of getting ahead with local talent Bijan Cortes.
DePaul currently owns the top-ranked 2021 class in America, with Wisconsin sitting second overall. That will change, but kudos to both for striking more than once within the Rivals150 already.
The 2021 class is not a strong one, and that is before another group of reclassifications deplete the class even further. Furthermore, it is prudent that schools follow what DePaul and Wisconsin have already done, pin-point exact targets to prioritize, and push for an early commitment before it gets too late.
3. FLORIDA RECAP
I spent a few days in Florida last week, attending a handful of high school games and events. I started out at the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament and, of course, the host program was dominant.
Cade Cunningham showed why he grabbed the No.1 ranking in the 2020 Rivals150 earlier this week, Scottie Barnes is the quintessential utility knife that is the voice of any team that he plays on, North Carolina-bound Day’Ron Sharpe is going to be a double-double threat his first day in a Tar Heels jersey, while Caleb Houstan looks to be one of the best shot-makers in America, regardless of class. Beyond the five-star standouts, there were a few others that caught my eye.
Up against the loaded Montverde crew, Ben Middlebrooks, a sophomore with the Westminster Academy program, played the part of high-major producer one day soon. Florida, Florida State and Miami have already offered and more programs will certainly follow suit. He can guard near the basket, take his man off the bounce and, most of all, shoot to the perimeter with confidence and consistency.
Trey Moss earned a spot in Rivals150 yesterday thanks to the continued progress that he has made with his game. He has grown another inch, sports elite quickness and a feel for the game, and also possesses great length that he uses on the defensive end. He has already taken an official visit to Santa Clara, visited the campus of South Florida and just picked up an offer from Texas A&M.
Making a move in his junior class rankings, Michael James is the definition of a tough-minded prospect. The versatile forward can play many positions and on both sides of the floor. He has become better at shooting the ball, but is at his best off of the attack and creating for others thanks to his underrated playmaking skills. One of the more under-recruited juniors down south, James has already taken unofficial visits to FAU, FGCU, Texas A&M and Wake Forest.