Men's Basketball, Sports

From ‘Last Chance U’ To LBSU: Joe Hampton reflects on his journey to basketball stardom

When he’s on the court Joe Hampton’s intensity has the potential to change the outcome of any basketball game.

Off the court, the 6-foot-8 senior at Long Beach State is recognized by everyone he passes by, having starred in a Netflix documentary about his community college basketball team in East Los Angeles.

For those who didn’t binge-watch “Netflix’s Last Chance U: Basketball,” Hampton was one of the predominant basketball players on the reality show. The series focused primarily on ELAC and how a championship game was ripped from the team when the pandemic canceled all college sports.

The Washington D.C. forward was both a hero and his own villain on the show; Hampton would miss practices, argue with refs and walk out of games. But that did not stop him from scoring high numbers in almost every game.

Hampton dominates as a power forward
No.24 Hampton looking to dodge a defender during a game Photo credit: CSULB Athletics

Hampton’s success in basketball and the show has granted him a sort of celebrity status. After the airing of the show, students began spotting him on campus.

“It’s crazy, I mean, I really can’t go anywhere without being stopped, the fame it’s ridiculous,” Hampton said while grinning. “Especially here at school, on-campus, people stop me and ask for a picture of me and it’s nice, it’s cool.”

Hampton appreciates the fame that comes along with the show and is thrilled about the recognition the show gave him. A notable example was when Shaquille O’Neal took notice of Hampton, tweeting, “Make a bigger name for yourself and get to this league.”

“Growing up, I looked up to Shaq,” Hampton said. “I was in shock, but I saw it as a positive thing. He just told me to take my attitude and use it the right way. Hopefully, my talents can take me to the right place and put me in a position to be able to take care of my family.”

Coming out of Oak Hill Academy, a school that has developed NBA stars like Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, and Stephen Jackson, Hampton was on a similar path to stardom like them.

Hampton was a 4-star recruit to Penn State University until he decided to leave the school for “personal reasons.” Hampton would never play a single minute for the Nittany Lions in 2016.

In 2017, Hampton went to play for Pasadena City College and was recruited by LBSU men’s basketball coach Dan Monson until he decided to go in another direction after Hampton did not meet academic expectations.

Instead, Hampton took a year off from playing basketball, and in 2019, Joe would find himself at ELAC under the guidance and coaching of John Mosley and Robert Robinson.

While at ELAC Hampton became one of the stars of his team, which was clear in “Last Chance U: Basketball.” While the show and Hampton’s season at ELAC would come to an end, the relationship between Hampton and his coaches endured.

Robert Robinson in ELAC's basketball room as seen frequently on the series.
Robert Robinson in ELAC's basketball room Photo credit: Ceyli Orrego

Robinson said since coaching Hampton, he has seen a tremendous change in his former player’s attitude.

“Joe comes to the gym probably a couple times a month,” Robinson said. “He texts, and we talk and we see him in various ways. Now you could see the maturity that came after the season [at ELAC] was over.”

After the ELAC season wrapped up, Hampton contacted Monson and vowed to pay his own way and show that he did belong on the LBSU team. He was no longer “hard to coach” as Robinson said, but a man dedicated to his team.

“It didn’t take long, maybe a couple of months, we were like hey Joe’s really matured, he’s really taking care of his business academically and he’s really fit into the team,” Monson said. “We ordered him the scholarship after he got here and it’s really a real success story.”

Monson said he was glad he’s never seen the show before and is thrilled to have Hampton a part of the team.

“Obviously, it shows a lot of the struggles he went through to get here, and I would have been a little more skeptical if I had known some of the things that he had going on,” Monson said. “You just got to give them that chance, and Joe has not let us down.”

This semester Monson brought in his four senior players and asked each one why they decided to come back. Some said they didn’t want to opt-out and some said winning, but Hampton put it bluntly that “this place saved my life.”

Hampton proud to be a part of the LBSU team
Joe Hampton after practice at Long Beach State. Photo credit: Ceyli Orrego

Hampton says he eats, sleeps and breathes basketball and doesn’t have much time for anything else. This level of commitment has his teammates taking notice.

Joe’s teammate Justin Rene says the team’s chemistry and Hampton’s hard work have them going far this year.

“We play good together as a team, and Joe, he’s definitely got the superstar status, and he’s got the talent for sure, but most of all, he works harder than anybody else that I know,” Rene said. “So that’s going to get him to the next level definitely.”

Working hard includes Hampton working out in the gym two times a day, sometimes for up to four hours. It’s put him in better shape than when he was at ELAC, allowing him to play both the power forward and small forward position.

“You have to work hard,” Hampton said. “Everything that you put into is what you get out of it, and I’m looking to go pro and make a profession out of this.”

Hampton said he is taking in everything one day at a time but is focused on winning a championship for the Beach.

“Division 1 basketball compared to Juco [community college] basketball is a big change and it’s something you work so hard for,” said Hampton. “Basketball is my whole world and I’m happy to be here and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I’m just hoping to win the Big West.”

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