McDonald's Nuggets: R.J. Hampton, prediction, more
Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition includes thoughts on R.J. Hampton’s decision, an early Final Four prediction, an update on four-star point guard Deivon Smith and, as always, the Commitment of the Week.
WHAT’S ON MY MIND: R.J. Hampton’s decision to go pro
Five-star guard R.J. Hampton’s decision to skip college to go play professionally in New Zealand generated a lot of discussion in the basketball community. Is it the right decision? Should he have gone to college? How will this impact his draft stock next year? All those questions were talked about quite a bit.
I love that Hampton had options on how to go forward with his career, whether it was college, overseas or a year in the G League. He’ll go to New Zealand, take some lumps early and find some success before long. I’d be pretty surprised if he’s not a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He’s going to be paid well this year between his professional contract and a shoe deal. If he had gone the college route, I still feel confident he would be a lottery pick after a year. My point is I’m glad he’s making the decision that makes him happy because I really don’t think it impacts much long term other than he’s getting paid a year early.
A lot of people are expressing concern this could be the new norm and we could see more prospects going this route. I’d be surprised if that’s the case. Hampton is the first prospect to make this move with no eligibility concerns (at least none that I’m aware of). With other prospects who made this move, such as Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay, Terrance Ferguson or Brian Bowen, there were either academic eligibility or amateurism issues in the picture. I just don’t see a lot of prospects leaving the country to go off the grid for a year if they don’t have to. Playing in college, even if you can’t get paid, is a great stage for these athletes to market themselves and they are treated like rock stars on campus. As much as Zion Williamson helped Duke this year, I’d argue playing for the Blue Devils helped his marketability just as much and helped his draft stock. The NCAA appears to be considering the idea of allowing athletes to profit off their likenesses, which is a step in the right direction, and there is the constant chatter about the NBA changing the rule to allow players to go out of high school. Either way, I just don’t see R.J. Hampton’s decisions becoming a major trend.
PREDICTION: Louisville will be in Atlanta next April
Chris Mack was the biggest winner of the deadline for college players to either stay in the NBA Draft or come back to college. Jordan Nwora coming back to school gives the Cardinals enough fire power for Louisville to make a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta next season. He’s a real candidate to be ACC Player of the Year next year and he’ll have plenty of help coming back and a really strong recruiting class coming in as well. I think Mack is one of the best coaches in the country and you always see coaches make a big jump in year two. I love Louisville’s chances of being a top 5 team and could easily see them cutting down the nets next April if all goes right.
RECRUITING NOTE: Leader emerging for Deivon Smith?
Over the past several months, Deivon Smith has emerged as one of the top point guards in the 2020 class out of Georgia. He’s collected offers from schools all over the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Oregon and several more.
As we head into the summer before his senior year, Louisville appears to be in a great spot for the four-star prospect. Chris Mack offered Smith a scholarship back in March and has built a strong relationship in the last couple months. Before the Cardinals surged to the front, Alabama had been the leader because of Avery Johnson and how he handled Collin Sexton. Nate Oats still has the Crimson Tide as one of Smith's top schools, but not quite as strong as they were a couple months ago. Miami is the other school sitting in a good spot right now because of Jim Larranaga’s recent run of quality point guards.
Georgia was one of the first high-major schools to offer Smith, but the Bulldogs have some work to do to catch up here. Xavier has been prominently mentioned with Smith, but it’s hard to see him ending up there with his Atlanta Celtics teammate Dwon Odom committed there, given they both want to be point guards at the next level. One school to keep an eye on going forward is LSU. With Will Wade’s situation appearing to be a little more settled, the Tigers could be a real player here because of the way Wade used Tremont Waters.
COMMITMENT OF THE WEEK: Woody Newton to Syracuse
When I think of Syracuse, I think of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone and the bouncy, athletic combo forward that usually plays on the back line of it and often goes on to play in the NBA. Players such as Hakim Warrick, Donte Greene, Jerami Grant and more recently Tyler Lydon. The Orange landed another prospect in that mold this week with the addition of four-star forward Woody Newton. The 6-foot-8, 185-pound prospect in the 2020 class fits Syracuse’s style perfectly. Currently ranked No. 73 in the 2020 Rivals150, this is a perfect start to what could be another really good class for Boeheim.