RJ Hampton has been training his whole life for this moment.
When the 18-year-old American steps onto the court in a New Zealand Breakers uniform, it will be another step in the master plan that will eventually lead him to the NBA.
Forgoing college to join the professional ranks, Hampton – projected as a top five pick in the 2020 NBA draft – had his options, but it was the pitch of the Breakers that had the most potential.
Speaking to the Herald, Hampton's father Rod explained why the Breakers ultimately got the young phenom's signature.
"It was two-fold. One was just the management and the administration with the Breakers, headed by Matt Walsh. That played a very, very big role in the Hamptons coming there," Rod said.
"But when I heard they were maybe going to get Dan Shamir, I did a lot of research on him, called guys in the EuroLeague and even coaches, NBA coaches and people that worked with him over her and they had nothing but good things to say about him."
Shamir, a two-time EuroLeague champion and three-time Israeli Premier League winner, was officially announced as the new Breakers coach this week bringing with him a wealth of experience in the professional game around the world.
His establishment as the Breakers' director of basketball proved to be an important factor in Hampton joining the club for what could very well be one of the most important years of his basketball career.
"He's like RJ – he wants to top out and maybe one day coach in the NBA, so both of them are hungry for success and I think they're going to make each other a really, really good combination," Rod said of Shamir.
"Getting a coach like Dan and a team like the Breakers who are all in on RJ, that's what you want. We know it's not going to be easy in the NBL, it's not going to be easy in the NBA either. This is comparable to the NBA. A lot of these guys have tasted the NBA and they're not going to give RJ any slack just because he's 18.
"He's coming over with a target on his back, we know that. He's got to meet the challenge not only in games but in practice and everything he does over there. We're coming over focused to meet our goals – one of the first ones is to come over and win a championship."
Hampton is expected to take the reins of the Breakers' offence at the starting point guard, which will put him in a position where he will have to put experience aside and order some of the veterans around the court.
It's a position he's more than ready to find himself in. While the ultimate goal is to be ready for the NBA draft, Hampton has a burning desire to lead the Breakers to another NBL title and he knows what he has to do to put the team a position to challenge for one.
"He's worked hard, and I think winning carries all. To get to his ultimate goal of the NBA, if he puts together a great season and they win, the sky's the limit. He wants to be the No 1 draft choice in the NBA and teams - believe it or not - they do look at if you're a winner. He is a winner."
But it won't just be time on the court that Hampton will need to use to lift his NBA draft stock. His work ethic, response to media requirements and how good of a teammate he is will all factor in what NBA scouts make of him.
"RJ should be the youngest on the team, so I'm telling him all the time – you're going to have to get in there and lead the team. You're going to have to lead some grown men," Rod said.
"But I would also love the veterans to take him under their wing and to teach him … I would love for them to take him under their wing and to groom him in just how to be a professional basketball player. That's on the court, off the court, during time outs, doing media sessions, doing weights, nutrition. He already does that with me, but to hear to come from a Scotty Hopson or Dan Shamir or Matt Walsh, it sends another message."