Today’s athlete takes control of their career, and they understand their worth. Professional teams and the NCAA dictating the experience of those on the field and court driving the profit, is slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. R.J. Hampton is the latest piece of evidence that players are taking ownership of their influence. Ranked the No. 6 point guard in the country with about 17 scholarship offers from top programs in the nation, R.J. has elected to sign on with the New Zealand Breakers as a professional player.
“My dream has never been to play college basketball,” Hampton explained on ESPN‘s Get Up! “My dream has always been to get to the next level and to play in the NBA.”
In this scenario, R.J. will get paid as he hones his skills to eventually enter the NBA draft, rather than play for free while risking injury in the hopes that he’ll build enough value to enter the pros sooner than later. The tides are indeed changing as the NBA is getting close to lowering the age limit for entry to the league, which will undoubtedly cause an increase in high school ballers going straight to the professional ranks. Additionally, the G-League is offering six-figure salaries to top prospects poised to play collegiate ball. There’s an industrial shift happening specifically in basketball, and sooner or later the NCAA is going to have to get on board.
Earlier this month it was reported that the NCAA is forming a working group to consider how its rules can be modified to allow college athletes to be compensated for use of their names, images, and likenesses. However, the association made it abundantly clear that they wouldn’t consider any options that construed paying players. How exactly do you compensate the use of someone’s name, image, or likeness without paying them? It seems as though the NCAA can’t embrace the thought of sharing the wealth. The only option is for players to elect to go different routes, but of course, many of them want to get an education in the event that professional ball isn’t in their future. Injuries, family emergencies, and everything else under the sun can destroy a player’s professional hoop dreams in a matter of seconds.
Perhaps that chance of failure is what the NCAA is underhandedly holding over the heads of athletes. Everyone isn’t destined to be at the professional level. Still, the superstars who are quite obviously on their way to the pros and drive ratings through the roof deserve some sort of compensation, and so do their teammates. Kyle Korver doesn’t get paid like LeBron James, but they both still get paid for appropriately for their efforts. It’s time the NCAA do the same for its own athletes.