Jalen Green and R.J. Hampton, two guards ranked inside the top five in the Chosen 25 for the class of 2020, took turns trading baskets at Dyckman Park in New York City for the first-ever SLAM Summer Classic.
Each trip down the court was a challenge, with the pressure to keep pace with the other rising after every made basket. At one point Green and Hampton scored on four straight possessions without making a pass.
In this setting, someone unfamiliar with the relationship between the two guards could easily mistake their competitiveness as disdain for each other, but that’s not the case. Over two years of basketball, Green, who’s from California, and Hampton, who’s from Texas, have built a brotherly relationship held together by the desire to be the best player on the floor at all times.
So, naturally, when the NCAA announced earlier this month it would allow high school players to take five official visits between Aug. 1 and the end of their junior year, the two prospects came up with a plan.
Why top prospects are coming to Memphis in September
The idea was to take their first official visit together, and checking all of the right boxes happened to be Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers.
“In reality, (Memphis) just worked out,” said Marcus Green, Jalen’s father. “It’s the start of the school year and the start of everything that they have going on outside of the AAU world and USA Basketball. This is just what happened to work out. They don’t have all the same offers, coaches interested, and interest in all the same schools.”
They did share Memphis, however, and when two highly rated prospects ask to visit together, it’s hard to say no. Even if the proposed dates are Sept. 13 and 14, well before the expected time of Memphis Madness — an event Green’s father said he doesn’t know anything about — which should host another batch of top recruits.
Marcus Green met Rod Hampton, R.J.’s father, two years ago during a USA Basketball camp. At first, each side’s admiration for the other’s son made conversation easy. And it still is easy, although the families hardly talk about basketball or recruiting now that it has become an around-the-clock grind for both of the players.
After approval from the parents, the September date was set. Not only did the Memphis staff land a visit from the No. 1 (Green) and No. 4 (Hampton) players in 247Sports’ Composite rankings, but the two guards are traveling together.
“(Jalen) felt that, being that he and R.J. are very close, they wanted to go together so that they could bounce ideas off one another and have conversations while they are going through the process,” Marcus Green said. “We felt like as parents, generally, it would be correct to let him have someone else outside of us to talk to him about this.”
How Penny Hardaway, Memphis basketball staff recruit
Green’s father expects Hampton’s presence to raise the overall comfort level of his son on the visit, but so will Memphis assistant coach Sam Mitchell, who coached Green on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit this past spring. Mitchell and Green had a healthy relationship because of the guard’s willingness to be pushed.
“I know (Mitchell) can help the boys get to where everyone says they are headed,” Marcus Green said. “Him and Jalen have a good relationship. He coaches Jalen really hard.”
Alongside Mitchell, the rest of the Memphis staff have also prioritized the recruitment of Green and Hampton. It’s Hardaway who connects with the parents most often, while assistant coach Mike Miller talks with the players.
“Mike has a good relationship with the boys, and they talk back and forth,” Marcus Green said. ‘We do talk to Mike and Penny. But yeah, Penny is the guy who calls and talks to us often because he’s the type of guy who wants to get to know the parents before he knows the kids. He wants to make sure that everything is a fit.”
Those recruiting roles sometimes change, but the current connection — as well as some good fortune when it comes to timing — has gotten Memphis this far. Two top-five recruits are coming to campus, and there’s no guarantee Hampton and Green will go on a group visit anywhere else.