When Amen and Ausar Thompson have been 9 years outdated, they made what they referred to as a dream board, writing “Amen and Ausar’s basketball dream” on a bit of poster board.
The dream board, which was the thought of their father, Troy, included a listing of “every single day” to-dos and their shared objectives. They every wished to turn into “the best NBA participant of all time” and a billionaire, together with proudly owning a shoe firm and rising to 6-foot-9, the identical peak as boyhood idol LeBron James. There are additionally drawings of a Nike shoe and a pile of cash.
Now 20 years outdated, they’re effectively on their approach.
The 6-foot-7 twins are anticipated to go as excessive as Nos. three and Four on this 12 months’s NBA Draft.
By most accounts, solely 7-foot-Four French phenom Victor Wembanyama and NBA G League star Scoot Henderson are thought-about locks to go forward of them, although controversial Alabama star Brandon Miller seemingly will as effectively.
Amen ranks greater than Ausar on most draft boards — the Spurs and Hornets have been talked about as doable locations, pending the precise draft order being revealed throughout Tuesday night time’s lottery — however each brothers are projected to go within the prime 10.
Given their superlative bodily presents — which embrace 7-foot wingspans, being super-quick off the dribble and dynamic playmaking that’s evident in a stream of viral moments splashed throughout the web — that’s commonplace. In response to those that’ve been round them, their basketball IQs additionally price extremely, the product of years of finding out video games and gamers.
Twins making it to the NBA is uncommon, nevertheless it’s not exceptional. Dick and Tom Van Arsdale have been the primary set of twins to play within the NBA, a pair of 6-foot-5 wings drafted one decide aside within the first spherical in 1965 by the Knicks and Pistons, respectively. There have been others: Horace and Harvey Grant, Jason and Jarron Collins, Brook and Robin Lopez and Markieff and Marcus Morris, to call a number of.
The trail the Thompsons selected to achieve the NBA, nonetheless, is altogether new.
Two years in the past, Additional time Elite, a professional league based mostly in Atlanta for gamers between 16 and 20 years outdated, was simply getting began.
When the Thompsons determined to decide to OTE, foregoing their senior years of highschool and eschewing the standard route of school basketball, or much more established options such because the G League or taking part in abroad, its fitness center wasn’t even constructed.
Now, OTE is replete with a 100,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. The campus features a fitness center that includes the identical shot-tracking system most NBA groups use, high-definition lights on the principle court docket that have been beforehand used at Staples Middle and Barclays Middle, a weight room and a nutricion heart, amongst different accouterments. There’s an accredited, NCAA-approved faculty.
Gamers additionally make a minimal wage of $100,000.
This previous season, the league expanded from three groups to 6 — incorporating two prep faculties, Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix and Phrase of God Academy in Raleigh, N.C., together with Our Savior Lutheran in The Bronx — and performed a 90-game schedule, plus the playoffs, from final November by way of this March.
It helps that Jeff Bezos, Drake, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker and dozens of different athletes are amongst those that have helped bankroll the endeavor.
The star energy doesn’t cease there, although.
Former NBA participant and coach Kevin Ollie beforehand headed OTE’s teaching and basketball growth. Ryan Gomes and Dave Leitao are among the many league’s coaches. Dominique Wilkins’ nephew Damien is the GM.
“I began OTE as a result of I represented sports activities leagues after I labored at [William Morris] Endeavor, all of them instructed me that younger folks weren’t engaged, weren’t watching tv and all these issues,” stated co-founder and CEO Dan Porter, who launched the league with Zack Weiner in 2021. “I imply, the typical season-ticket holder for many sports activities is between 45 and 55. So we have been constructing one thing for our viewers.
“It’s a basketball league that’s aggressive and that’s bought a high-energy model of basketball that our viewers likes. … As I inform each NBA government that comes by way of right here, we’re additionally within the viewers growth enterprise, and that’s good for basketball, it’s good for people who find themselves gonna observe our gamers to professional groups.”
OTE now counts greater than 75 million followers throughout a number of social media platforms.
However earlier than all of that have been the Thompsons, who have been two of the primary 4 gamers to signal on.
“I didn’t wanna go at first,” Amen instructed The Submit. “My household wished me to, however I didn’t wish to.”
Ausar was extra on board with the thought, however nonetheless cautious: “After I signed, I used to be super-anxious,” he stated. “It was an enormous deal on the time.”
Now, the Thompsons have turn into the large deal.
“They’re work monsters,” one NBA assistant coach instructed The Submit in his evaluation of them. “And so they’re aggressive as hell.”
That work started in earnest at a younger age.
Born in January 2003 in San Leandro, Calif., simply south of Oakland, Amen and Ausar — the names rhyme with “uh pen” and “uh automobile,” as they politely identified after they sat down with The Submit — have been already doing drills designed by their dad by age 7.
They spent countless hours on the native Boys & Women Membership, the place, as Ausar is fast to level out, his crew beat Amen’s for the title after they have been in third grade.
James was offering loads of inspiration round that point, too, main the Warmth to 4 straight Finals appearances, together with two titles.
Basketball can be within the Thompsons’ blood: Troy and two of his brothers have been achieved basketball gamers, and their uncle, Mark Thompson, competed within the hurdles for Jamaica on the 1992 Olympics. Ausar and Amen’s older brother, Troy Jr., performed basketball at Prairie View A&M in addition to professionally.
The twins have been home-schooled in sixth and seventh grade, so they might spend extra time on basketball.
And so they have lengthy had their eyes on the NBA. Ausar stated he first began contemplating it an actual chance in center faculty.
“Once we began taking part in prime competitors and [the game] felt straightforward,” Ausar stated.
Then in eighth grade, they bought a suggestion to take their skills to Pine Crest College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a personal faculty recognized extra for teachers than for athletics. Switching faculties additionally meant uprooting your complete household and shifting throughout the nation. However by their junior 12 months, they’d sprouted to 6-foot-7, led Pine Crest to a state title and have been on the verge of constructing a good greater leap: to OTE.
Although they have been being recruited by Kentucky, amongst different powerhouse faculty packages, and regardless of some trepidation, the fledgling stars determined to decide to the start-up.
“I simply felt it was the perfect place for us to develop as gamers with a number of room to develop and make errors,” Ausar instructed The Submit.
Added Amen: “On the time, it was unproven. I used to be going to be one of many first to signal on. I didn’t understand how the NBA would take a look at it.”
One current indication got here from Kentucky coach John Calipari, who stopped by OTE to look at his five-star recruit Robert Dillingham play there — Dillingham maintained his faculty eligibility by foregoing wage and as a substitute signing NIL offers, together with one with guardian firm Additional time Sports activities — and within the course of gave the league his stamp of approval.
“This is the reason you’re right here. This is the reason I’m so ecstatic,” Calipari tells Dillingham throughout a exercise with Gomes in a video put out by Additional time Elite. “One, he’s gaining weight. He was too skinny. … However right here’s what you’ve bought to study, his job is to make you uncomfortable. When you’re not uncomfortable, you’ve bought to inform him, ‘Come on, man. Push me. Make me uncomfortable.’”
A tacit endorsement got here from the Spurs, who signed rookie ahead Dominick Barlow to a two-way contract out of Additional time Elite after final 12 months’s draft.
“When NBA groups come by way of right here, we sit down with them and are like, ‘What do you wish to see?’” Porter says. “What are the strengths and weaknesses of men you’re taking within the draft? We attempt to get entry to that info and feed it again into our program, in order that we all know we’re making ready guys right here in the best approach.”
The Thompsons are at a wholly totally different degree than Barlow, or most of the different gamers within the league, and with their success, so goes OTE.
Although they have been extremely touted prospects as juniors, they weren’t on the prime of any recruiting rankings and now are projected to go close to the highest of the NBA Draft, paving the way in which for others who have been skeptical of the beforehand unproven OTE path.
Ausar was named OTE MVP after averaging 21.three factors and main his crew, the Metropolis Reapers, to the championship in March, hitting the successful shot within the title recreation. That provides him two finals MVPs to go together with this 12 months’s regular-season MVP award.
ESPN NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony referred to as the championship recreation the most effective video games he’d been to all season, noting Ausar’s 24 factors together with Amen’s 17 factors, 9 assists and 6 rebounds.
Nonetheless, there are questions — largely concerning the expertise degree they performed in opposition to in Additional time Elite and extra particularly critiques of their capturing.
Whereas Amen tasks as a lead guard given his skill to see the ground, ball dealing with and explosiveness, his exterior capturing is one thing he has admittedly needed to work on. The identical is true of Ausar, who tasks as a slashing small ahead. Each gamers have obtained excessive marks from scouts as keen and tenacious defenders.
One NBA scout instructed The Submit that Amen has “nice burst” off the catch, can get to the rim rapidly and is an “wonderful” ball handler, although he struggles extra along with his left hand. The identical scout stated that Ausar is a “dynamic finisher,” but additionally struggles along with his left hand and isn’t fairly as explosive.
Each additionally have to work on their shot, the scout famous, however stated that’s true of most gamers at their levels of growth.
What are their scouting stories of one another?
Ausar instructed The Submit that Amen is the “twitchiest” participant he’s ever performed in opposition to and that his quickness makes him arduous to remain in entrance of. Amen says Ausar is “clean,” but additionally arduous to remain in entrance of as a result of “he has a number of wiggle for somebody his measurement.”
As for the doubts about their NBA ceilings, they’re largely outweighed by the positives.
Mike Dunn, a capturing coach who works with quite a lot of faculty and NBA gamers, has been within the fitness center with the Thompsons a handful of instances and says their athleticism is “off the charts.” He additionally stated their want to get higher is “insane.”
“They’re sponges for all the pieces they hear,” Dunn instructed The Submit. “I can’t say sufficient how hungry they’re. At the present time, with social media and them plastered throughout [that’s rare]. They’re keen to just accept information and play the lengthy recreation; that’s what’s going to make them final.”
Dunn additionally famous that they’re super college students of the sport.
Although James is their favourite participant, Amen and Ausar word they examine quite a lot of gamers intently — Jordan Poole, Kobe Bryant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Doncic, Paul George, De’Aaron Fox, Ja Morant and Damian Lillard, amongst them — and attempt to pull the perfect attributes from every.
“When you take a look at Marcus Good, he’s the most effective defensive gamers, so I attempt to take from that, too,” Ausar added.
Even Amen’s and Ausar’s down time is spent round basketball — taking part in NBA2K is a favourite pastime, they usually attempt to glean no matter information they will from the online game.
Each have the identical objective, for themselves and for one another.
“Be the most effective ever,” Ausar stated.
In addition they nonetheless bear in mind the dream board they made after they have been simply 9. In any case, it wasn’t that way back.
“That’s a cool factor to look again on to see how far we’ve come,” Amen stated.
“I’ve to go end it,” Ausar added. “I by no means coloured in my identify.”