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An Aussie Reaction To RJ Hampton’s Decision

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NBL Rd 18 - Brisbane v New Zealand
Quick, where did Lamar Patterson play college basketball?
Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

RJ Hampton surprised the college basketball world a bit by moving to Australia to play and prepare for next year’s draft.

Here’s an Aussie take on that idea and while our friends Down Under are understandably excited we think they may be getting a bit carried away. He is a talented player but not necessarily extravagantly so. By NBA standards he may be average to slightly superior. That’s a very high standard though and higher than the NBL usually sees. He’ll be a star there from Day One.

And the NBL is a valid option now and more players may do it. But in our opinion they are getting a bit ahead of things in this article.

For one, while Hampton is an exception, a guy who could get into Stanford as his dad says, the other examples are certainly not. No one much missed Brian Bowen when he went over (his stats were nothing to e-mail home about) and like LaMelo Ball, another guy whose dad apparently screwed his career up, his choices are now limited.

The guys who do this are also all going to be watching March Madness and feeling a bit shortchanged not to be in it. It’s a real rite of passage for US kids and one of the world’s premier sporting events.

As they rightly say though, Hampton will be making a living against grown men. But it’s not like this is the NBA. In fact, while Aussie basketball is vastly improved and we have written before about the nation as a rising power in the sport, the athleticism is nowhere near what the US has.


Because the best Aussies are in the NBA. So Hampton will play against really good players, including a lot of Americans, but he won't be able to compete against guys like, say, Cassius Stanley because guys like Cassius Stanley don’t typically play in the NBL. Guys like Brian Bowen do.

Which leads us to Dr. Hillel Gitelman.

Growing up in Durham we were just neighborhood kids playing ball in the driveway and often it was Dr. Gitelman’s driveway.

Dr. Gitelman, a nephrologist, was a brilliant physician and a man of many accomplishments. Basketball however was not one of them.

But he liked to shoot hoops with the kids and being a highly intelligent man, he understood that we were (then) all younger and faster than was he.

So he compensated by basically hacking us every chance he got. And not a little hack either. He would grab your forearm as you went up and keep you from shooting. And there was no foul - remember it was his court.

So we learned. We learned to power through and flip the ball up from our wrists when he controlled our forearms.

Basically he forced us to learn an entirely different way to play the game. Years later, in college pickup games, people would try to hold you down and it all came rushing back: Dr. Gitelman, quite unintentionally, taught us all how to play through contact.

Grown man contact that is. Guys who would just beat the crap out of you because they couldn't keep up or stop you.

It may pay off for Hampton in a similar way.

But he’s not going to see the kind of competition and athleticism he would in the ACC or Big 12. We’ll see how that works out in the long run.

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