RJ Hampton's most impressive professional outing

MELBOURNE - For the second consecutive weekend, basketball fans in Melbourne were treated to viewing one of the premier talents in the 2020 NBA Draft, as RJ Hampton and the New Zealand Breakers visited Melbourne United.

Unlike last week, there was little fanfare pregame.

There wasn't the throng of fans lining the court for pregame warm-ups like there was for LaMelo Ball. There wasn't the vocal support for the opposition among the 6,746 in attendance - which was over 3,000 fewer fans than a week ago for LaMelo v the start-up South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Saturday night felt more like a typical NBL game, as the Breakers attempted to build on the momentum from their first win of the season against Illawarra on Thursday night, while United just wanted a win.

It was business as usual for Hampton and the Breakers, which appeared to suit the 18-year-old just fine, as he pieced together his most impressive outing as a professional to date.

Hampton would finish with 14 points and seven rebounds (both career-high marks), while adding two steals and a block to his impressive line in 23 minutes on court.

Notably, zero turnovers were registered to his name, as the game has already appeared to slow down for the rising star.

A three minute and forty-two second stretch to open the second quarter belonged to Hampton, as he surgically picked apart the United defence, even if the box score won't tell the full tale.

He opened the second with a driving lay-up, before burying a triple from the right corner, tying his career-high mark of eight points with 8:29 left in the first half.

From there, Hampton consistently beat his immediate defender off the dribble, penetrating the paint to deliver open looks on a platter.

A pinpoint pass to Sek Henry on the perimeter, a wrap-around drop off to Brandon Ashley in the restricted area, and two drive and kicks to Tom Abercrombie were featured in the impressive run.

Only problem was, all four shots rattled off the rim.

"I just felt like the lane was opening up for me, I could get to the rim and find my teammates with kick outs," Hampton said postgame.

"I'll always make the assist and make that pass to assist, it felt like when I was doing that we were in a good place."

Hampton's dominance may have been subtle to some, but it was present, and it was far from lost on head coach Dan Shamir postgame.

"We are addressing a few things but today was just great, he got into the paint, the first two, threes were falling which is always a plus, but he got a lot of kick outs and really controlled the game at the beginning," Shamir said.

Hampton's ability to play within the offence was impressive, but don't be fooled, he still has highlight reel ability in his repertoire.

With the Breakers down, 100-95 and just over 90 seconds remaining, Hampton soared for a defensive rebound, before taking the ball the length of the floor, delivering a dizzying spin move and finish at the rim.

The fourth-quarter highlight came in the midst of perhaps his greatest challenge of the night, as he twice found himself isolated on Chris Goulding.

Goulding first drew a foul on Hampton, before the 18-year-old was then able to force a fumble from the star guard.

"We were trying to get [Goulding] open at the three-point line. The counter plays were trying to get it into Shawn [Long] or was there an opportunity for him to turn the corner," United head coach, Dean Vickerman explained postgame.

"He made good decisions by himself, it wasn't something [we drew up]. We have a lot of respect for RJ as a defender as well, Chris just used his veteran savvy to get a couple of calls down the stretch."

For Hampton, the goal was simple.

"Defending [Goulding] down the stretch, I just knew I had to try run him off his line, not let him shoot, so that was kind of my job on him."

Ultimately, United won the game, 104-98, but for Hampton's draft stock, the game was a major win, as he continues to prove himself in one of the best leagues in the world outside of his next stop, the NBA.

"He's a key guy for us so he should be doing that consistently," Shamir said.

If this type of performance does because the norm, you should expect Hampton's name to continue to rise in 2020 NBA mock drafts.