The recent workouts by NBA draft prospect R.J. Hampton overseen by Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway at the university’s facilities violated the school’s coronavirus-prompted protocols.
That was the response from Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch when asked Monday by the Commercial Appeal newspaper about the training sessions.
“Coach Hardaway reached out to help a player he had built a relationship with in preparation for the upcoming NBA draft process,” Veatch told the Commercial Appeal. “Everyone in our program now recognizes that having any player development in the building is not in line with our current COVID-19 protocols and it will not happen again until protocols have changed.”
The Memphis campus remains largely shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, Hampton has been on campus, as the 6-foot-5 guard showed in a video posted on his Instagram account last week. On Thursday, The Athletic detailed Hampton’s recent work with Hardaway, sparked by a text from the coach to the player that said, “Come down to Memphis as soon as you can.”
Hampton’s father, Rod, told The Athletic regarding Hardaway, “He told us he wanted to extend his knowledge and give back to R.J., because he thinks R.J. is special. He told us if RJ comes up here, you’re gonna see what I do with him. When that phone rings, it’s like (Barack) Obama calling. You pick that up. ‘How may I help you, sir? I’m reporting for duty.'”
Hampton, 19, had been a top-rated prospect from Little Elm (Texas) High School before he was caught up in the NCAA basketball recruiting scandal that involved influence from Adidas.
He reportedly was considering Memphis, Kansas and Texas Tech before deciding to bypass college and sign last May with the New Zealand Breakers of Australia’s National Basketball League.
In 15 games for the Breakers, Hampton averaged 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Hampton is rated the 10th-best prospect in the upcoming NBA draft by ESPN. He is ranked 16th by Bleacher Report, 21st by NBAdraft.net and 24th by CBS Sports.