LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton’s decisions to circumvent the NCAA and spend a year playing professional basketball before joining the NBA is a move that not only affected their futures but the perception of the path they took as well. Look no further than Kenyon Martin Jr. for evidence of the second point.
Martin Jr., son of the former All-Star that shares his namesake, recently turned down the opportunity to play college basketball at Vanderbilt to instead pursue a road professionally. His second thoughts on his decision to go to college only arose after seeing Hampton and Ball choose to play in Australia.
A recent Undefeated piece revealed that Martin Jr. went as far as calling Ball and Hampton to get a sense of what led to their decisions and whether they shared the same mindsets.
“I talked to R.J. and LaMelo both. [LaMelo] played for a year overseas [in Lithuania], and now he is going back again. I asked him what he thought about it. Now he is going out there on his own; his brother [LiAngelo] won’t be there. I talked to both to ask them what they were thinking, and we all kind of have the same mindset in what we want to accomplish.”
Whether they were aware of it or not at the time of their respective decisions, both Ball and Hampton may have become trailblazers in a sense. While others have gone the route of playing professionally even in Australia, no one as highly touted as Ball and Hampton have made the decision.
So long as the NBA and NCAA continue to have the one-and-done, this will remain a viable option and one that main gain some more credibility after Ball and Hampton’s decisions.