TIM FULLER WAS one in all dozens of scouts filling a Louisville gym in late April 2021 to evaluate some basketball talent.
Among the many players on the previous Power 5 assistant coach’s list: Amen and Ausar Thompson, from unsponsored AAU team Florida Pro HSA, who initially hadn’t been on his radar but got here really helpful by a friend.
“Amen picks the ball up full court and he’s dogging this kid,” Fuller recalls of the sport against the higher-ranked Meanstreets EYBL team from Chicago. “Dogging him, dogging him, dogging him to the purpose where the child has now got his back turned to Amen and doesn’t even wish to dribble.
“So I watch Amen timing his dribble. Because the ball leaves the child’s hand, Amen dives on the ball together with his left hand. … He knocks the ball loose, and, as he’s falling to the bottom, wraps it around his body together with his left hand and just throws it behind his head.”
The weird level of defensive intensity on the opening tip of an AAU game immediately caught Fuller’s attention.
“From the baseline, Ausar comes darting up the lane,” Fuller says. “I do not know how he knew Amen was getting this steal, but he comes darting up the lane, picks the ball off in midair with one hand, drops it down with that hand, takes yet another dribble and two steps and he’s flying on the basket with a tomahawk dunk. The entire place erupted.”
Before the excitement could subside, Meanstreets inbounded the basketball.
But then, one other steal. One other dunk. This time with Ausar pressing and Amen ending.
“I’m like, ‘Hold on a second,'” Fuller says. “Did I just experience a “Matrix”-like deal here? What’s happening? It’s like a glitch.”
A couple of more minutes and Fuller had seen enough. He stepped away, to not ring his buddy and thank him for the nudge, but to call his employer and gush in regards to the twins, insisting they might be a critical addition to this system he’d been hired to assist launch.
His employer? Time beyond regulation Elite, a recent alternative path set to launch in the autumn for basketball prospects entering their senior yr of highschool to succeed in their skilled goals. Amen and Ausar Thompson shouldn’t just be on his organization’s radar, Fuller thought. They were the sort of talents who would supply immediate legitimacy to a company still quite literally in its constructing phase.
The Thompson twins would sign with Fuller and the Atlanta-based OTE in May, bypassing their senior yr of highschool to turn into two of this system’s first 4 commitments. The pair had managed relative anonymity in basketball circles until then. This selection would temporarily maintain that pattern, keeping them away from the high-profile world of faculty basketball.
It could create a wholly different kind of pressure, nonetheless. Amen and Ausar would effectively turn into the primary real test case for OTE’s ambitions.
If the Thompsons reach their dream — to turn into NBA stars — future prospects can look to another, novel path to skilled preparedness on the domestic side. In the event that they fail, OTE could possibly be criticized for pulling young, promising talent away from the more established, traditional college hoops path.
For a few teenagers who’ve never sought the highlight, it appears like a heavy ask.
Amen Thompson of Time beyond regulation Elite also ranks top-10. He’s the superior passer and ball handler of the twins, while still offering lots of the same traits when it comes to physical tools, defensive versatility and talent operating within the open court. Jumper is the subsequent piece. https://t.co/CEfSBW5kYW pic.twitter.com/UBxhFJEqu6
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) January 22, 2022
But Amen and Ausar are an identical twins, with an identical 6-foot-7 frames and wingspans a touch under 7 feet (for now). They commit just as much on defense as on offense, displaying defensive instincts beyond their years. They glide like the very best wings, handle and pass like guards and play aggressively on the rim.
Each are projected lottery picks within the 2023 NBA draft. By the point June comes around, they’ll have played their second full schedule against fellow OTE talent and brought advantage of the liberty this system allows by playing professionals in numerous settings — including open runs with NBA pros, and a temporary European tour that begins Wednesday.
The excitement around them has grown because the Louisville AAU tournament. Fuller believes it still doesn’t match their actual ability.
“I do not think individuals are going to essentially know who these kids are and what they’re able to until they probably hit NBA summer league next yr and take the world by storm,” he says. “I really consider they’ll come into the NBA, the primary set of twins to be that generational talent where individuals are clamoring to come back watch their games.”
The Thompsons are a basketball family: besides the twins, dad, Troy (far right), older brother Troy Jr. (far left) and two uncles have hooped. Courtesy Thompson family
What the twins are clamoring for at this moment is a hearty lunch.
After briefly trying to choose which combination of plates at this Fort Lauderdale waterfront restaurant would offer probably the most bang for the buck, the 19-year-olds order the salmon.
Seated at a round table with their father, Troy, and highschool coach Ike Smith, Amen is wearing a UCLA T-shirt. Ausar has done a really thankful few the favor of wearing earrings, the small diamond studs distinguishing him from his brother.
Rudy Gobert has just been traded to Minnesota, sending the twins to their phones for real-time reactions, while Troy tries to determine how the move would affect Kevin Durant’s then-trade request out of Brooklyn.
Basketball dominates the conversation, including how the twins studied Dwyane Wade’s Euro step, particularly a nasty one-two against Kevin Garnett as a Celtic, in addition to the very best inside-out dribble, which belongs to Jordan Poole, based on Ausar — “he sort of just throws it.”
Variety of play sparks a small disagreement. Dad wanted them to play like Russell Westbrook, the twins say. “I didn’t want them to play like Westbrook,” Troy clarifies. “I wanted them to hustle like Westbrook.”
That is normal. Basketball is written within the family code.
Troy is one in all 4 brothers, three of them hoopers. The fourth, Mark Thompson, was an Olympic 400-meter hurdler for Jamaica in 1992. The twins’ older brother, Troy Jr., was a guard at Prairie View A&M before making a number of skilled stops.
The elder Troy, 52, is by far probably the most energetic body at this lunch. He recalls stories of raising his boys with wife, Maya, in San Leandro, California, a everlasting smile on his face and his left leg commonly protruding from under the table and tapping at a fast pace.
Mom ruled out football for the boys, so by the point Amen and Ausar were 7, they were running basketball drills Dad developed with Troy Jr. years before.
“I’d drop them off [at their elementary school’s court] like an hour early,” Troy said. “After they were little, they’d all the time wish to play one-on-one. However the one-on-one would end in fights and arguing and all that nonsense.
“I used to be like, ‘OK guys, you’ll be able to do your one-on-one. But you bought to do these drills first. After which I’d drive away, like I used to be going away. But I’d watch. And so they did it. They did the drills day by day before one-on-one.”
By the point they were 9, despite not being especially tall for his or her age, the twins began speaking their NBA dreams into the universe.
Sometimes, they even wrote them down.
“We made this dream board,” Troy said.
It was called “Amen and Ausar’s Basketball Dream,” and it was exactly what you’d expect.
Amen and Ausar wrote down what that they had to do to be like LeBron James once they were 9 years old. Now, elements of their game are being in comparison with that of their idol. Courtesy Thompson Family
“Grow to be the best basketball player of all time,” it read, together with drawings of cash and a Nike foamposite, and 10 day by day must-dos in an effort to reach that dream.
“Their 6-foot-9 NBA dream,” Troy specified, referring to height of the twins’ basketball idol, LeBron James.
The family would support those dreams, including homeschooling the twins for a few years to construct in as much training time as possible. Then, as they were entering eighth grade, they received a chance to play at a personal school in Fort Lauderdale.
Pine Crest had a basketball program most recently known for producing former Kentucky Wildcat and NBA guard Brandon Knight, however it was hardly a powerhouse. It was, nonetheless, a highly regarded academic school. Add in the chance to compete against more physical South Florida athletes, and Troy was convinced the family should move across the country.
Maya wasn’t. She worked for the town of Berkeley and had family in Oakland. Ball is not actually life, in spite of everything.
It left the twins having to choose from time with their mother and a cross-country trek based largely on their father’s instincts.
Ausar was willing to go, but Amen did not have the identical vision.
“Amen could see my stress, and he actually said, ‘Mom, I’ll stick with you if it makes you’re feeling higher,'” Maya says. “That was my tipping point. There is no such thing as a way I could possibly separate these kids from their dream due to how I’m feeling.
“When Amen was willing to walk away from his brother, I said, ‘No, thanks.'”
She couldn’t possibly have known Amen was (mostly) bluffing.
“I’ve never been willing to only, like, leave Ausar, for real,” Amen says. Off they went.
Amen Thompson is not any.1 and Ausur Thompson is not any.0 now with @extra time.
— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) May 25, 2021
By their junior yr, the twins had grown to close their current 6-7 frames. Their stifling, relentless defense and ever-expanding offensive game even carried Pine Crest to a state title.
Yet, until this point, the twins had largely played on teams that weren’t stacked with talent and relied far an excessive amount of on them. Bad News Bears-type teams, their mom would call them, Pine Crest included. Eventually it didn’t feel like a really productive path for the pair set on reaching the NBA.
Troy and the twins began in search of one other location to finish highschool and prepare for the faculty basketball experience. It’s, in spite of everything, the first path to the professionals.
“We’re a really college-educated and focused family, on each side. In order that was the natural progression,” Maya says. “So to miss out on that was a giant gamble.”
It wasn’t until the twins began their AAU season, after winning the state championship, that the Thompsons realized they’d be asked to take the gamble.
The Thompson twins are commonly praised for his or her defensive instincts. But they’ll dunk and pull off highlight reel-level stuff too — something NBA scouts like too. Adam Hagy/Time beyond regulation Elite
Fuller had seen only one portion of 1 half of 1 game of Amen and Ausar’s. If the background research provided no red flags, the director of recruitment at OTE figured they were a super pair for this system.
“They’re at a high academic school, and never one in all these academies that just pops up,” Fuller says. “They’ve a unique kind of makeup. They’ve been in a consistent environment for consecutive years. In order that they probably have strong work ethic on and off the court. That is what I began to assemble.”
Because the family considered moving to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix for the twins’ final yr of highschool, Fuller finally tracked down Troy, after weeks of attempts, and persuaded the family to listen to his dangerous pitch over lunch.
His selling point: around-the-clock access to a gym, trainers, videos, high-tech training systems, skilled players and coaches, together with a personalised academic regimen and media training. OTE players are also paid a minimum of $100,000 — which may now even be withheld, as a “scholarship” option, to assist maintain college eligibility.
Skipping college has been an option for many years for NBA hopefuls. There’s the G League Ignite, which produced the 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green, and in addition playing overseas, the best way LaMelo Ball did before being drafted third overall in 2020.
Even one-and-done college players often treat their single undergraduate yr as a period of skilled training. OTE — which is a component of Time beyond regulation, a social media content company that reportedly generates 2 billion video views a month to its greater than 75 million-plus followers — launched on the same idea of cutting out unnecessary restrictions and enhancing profession training.
Amen and Ausar, nonetheless, weren’t being asked to sign with a proven organization that might definitively give them their best shot at NBA stardom instantly.
They were being asked to affix a program that would possibly do this.
It was unproven. Heck, the state-of-the-art gym wasn’t even complete. The gamble got here with no visible safety net.
And the Thompsons can be the most important names signing on.
Just as with the Pine Crest decision, Ausar was on board. He’d never really considered college basketball as anything greater than a needed step, despite the appeal of the NCAA tournament.
Amen, again, didn’t share his brother’s opinion.
“I didn’t wish to go [with OTE],” he says. “I didn’t wish to be, like, the primary to do it. My mom and pop wanted me to go, and Ausar was sort of considering it. He was 50-50. I used to be … stern on my ‘no.'”
It was the appeal of the nonstop training and future high-tech facility that finally swayed him. “Our goal was all the time to be, like, the very best NBA players ever. So, college or not, it really didn’t affect that,” he says.
An enormous get for OTE, but only truly terrific if the Thompsons actually fulfilled the destiny they so clearly drew out for themselves on their vision board.
When the gym doors eventually opened, Amen knew he’d made the appropriate decision.
“I just saw the advance my game had made briefly spans — in like a month up there,” Amen says. “I felt like I used to be the most effective players coming in. But a month in, I began really going into a unique category.”
Fast-forward a number of months, and the OTE experience was in full force. But there have been still questions on the extent of competition this system’s players faced. With rosters that only went so deep, and a schedule that did not include college teams, critics suggested the twins wouldn’t be properly tested. Despite the raw talent in the power, and playing against elite talent in what would have been their senior yr of highschool, Ausar and Amen were essentially facing the identical set of 18- and 19-year-olds, not a wide range of more experienced NCAA players and systems.
In “12 months Zero,” as OTE called its first yr, the twins were placed on separate teams, and only faced one another in a three-game championship series. Ausar’s Team Elite won. Kyle Hess/Time beyond regulation Elite
That is where the liberty of OTE turns out to be useful.
In March 2022, The Basketball Tournament — the annual, nationally televised open tournament for former players with a $1 million prize for the winner — announced it could allow draft-eligible players to participate for the primary time since its inception in 2014.
OTE registered a team of its players and professionals, including the Thompsons. Hastily, the twins who had skipped college were on a university campus, about to play in a packed arena in a win-or-go-home scenario.
Along with them being easily probably the most intriguing players ever to play on this tournament, their game against the Omaha Blue Crew, on the Creighton campus, in a filled-to-capacity 2,500-seat gym, would even be televised.
The sport began off almost as expected: a bit sloppy on each ends. An alley-oop from Amen to Ausar was broken up on OTE’s first possession, while Blue Crew began with an and-1 layup to get the group in an early frenzy.
The opponents were clearly amped to tackle a pair of hyped-up NBA prospects, particularly Ronnie Harrell — a 26-year-old former Creighton Blue Jay who now plays within the Bundesliga, and primarily pressured either twin.
He wasn’t shy about it.
“‘You are f—ing weak,'” Amen says, recalling the intimidation attempts. “‘Y’all little boys,’ stuff like that.
“I feel they were really just trying to examine us to see how we’d react. They were only saying this in the primary quarter, though.”
Since the twins eventually settled in. It wasn’t as in the event that they’d explode with a ton of scoring. TBT is just not the NBA, and neither are its officials. The play, with $1 million at stake, can get quite physical — and didn’t play into the hands of the twins, who each check in at about 200 kilos.
But in case you were watching the Thompsons just for his or her scoring, you would be missing most of what makes them special.
After Amen blessed the gym with a monster half-court drive-and-dunk, the pair were more of their element.
AMEN THOMPSON ARE YOU KIDDING ME⁉️💥😱
What a technique to start TBT for the projected Top 5 Pick!
— TBT (@thetournament) July 17, 2022
On the next possession, Ausar missed a pair of free throws but immediately forced a turnover. He had a putback slam in traffic a number of moments later. A two-handed block off the backboard soon after. None of it with flair or celebration.
While the OTE offense was effectively a series of isolations at the highest of the circle, not great for the twins given how the Blue Crew packed the paint defensively, the Thompsons were absolutely terrorizing defensively and making strong impressions.
Former NBA Rookie of the 12 months, two-time champion and now sports agent Mike Miller had just watched the twins somewhat struggle offensively for one half of a basketball game. He still had nothing but glowing reviews.
“The word is elite,” says Miller, who got to know the twins during a workout in Memphis with Penny Hardaway a month earlier. “They’re elite kids, they’re elite employees, elite competitors, obviously elite athletes. They will have the whole lot they need. They’re hard employees, they’re grinders, and you recognize me, I really like the grinders.
“They’re playing against guys who’ve played basketball their entire lives, they usually’ve got them scared to place the ball on the ground.”
Major praise from a friend and former teammate of The King himself.
Yet much of the joy in regards to the twins from NBA scouts is tempered by their inconsistent jump shots. During their first season at OTE, Amen shot 22% from 3-point range and 55.8% from the foul line, while Ausar, the more fluid shooter, went 23.6% and 56.3%, respectively.
“They’re very, very talented, they usually’ve got a variety of upside. But they have a variety of work to do as well,” says one Western Conference scout who has seen the twins multiple times. “They each need skill development when it comes to handling the ball, and each of them actually need to spend a variety of time on shooting the basketball when it comes to catching and shooting, rhythm-dribble pullups. They got to try so as to add that to their game. The earlier, the higher.”
But after totaling 6 assists, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and three steals and generating highlights that impressed even the Omaha fans, the twins’ jump shots were hardly on the forefront.
Amen and Ausar lamented a handful of missed free throws early in what can be an in depth game (OTE lost 74-70). But mostly they were disenchanted they would not have one other shot against what they considered probably the most physical competition they’d ever played.
“They might just, like, hold you,” Amen says.
Over the subsequent 10 days, the twins will face a unique test of physicality: They’ll be an element of an OTE team of draft-eligible players playing a series of exhibition games against skilled teams in Serbia and Spain.
“You would tell a European basketball player versus an American basketball player, so I sort of just wish to see how they’re taught,” Ausar says. “It is not the identical. Point guards aren’t similar to American point guards. I’m attempting to see how those guards dribble like that and may never get ripped.”
“I heard the group is ridiculous, and I really like playing in front of a crazy crowd,” Amen says. “If I see a flare, first off, do you recognize how cold the Instagram pic can be with the flare within the background? But I heard it’s hard to breathe when the flares come out.”
Amen and Ausar grew up running drills created by dad Troy for his or her older brother, Troy Jr. They were so committed they’d complete the drills before playing one-on-one with one another. Courtesy the Thompson family Courtesy Thompson family
They’ll be removed from home, but Amen and Ausar will still carry a component that grounds them: a house button. They each still sport iPhone 7s despite loads of opportunities to upgrade.
“I’m sticking with my guy!” Ausar likes to joke.
The twins didn’t go down this particular profession path simply to bury their heads of their smartphones. They’d moderately watch videos that may help them improve their game.
Kevin Ollie, a 13-year NBA veteran and former college coach at UConn, is now the pinnacle coach and director of player development at OTE. He has experienced the twins’ work ethic firsthand.
Their respective jump shots have been the main focus of countless hours of labor, he says, whether it’s working on form or using the Noah Shooting System within the OTE gym, which provides real time feedback for a shot’s arc, depth and left-and-right movement.
“Their shots have gone from night to day from the primary time we saw them to now,” Ollie says.
Still, it’s the abilities they showed up with on day one that also awe Ollie — “I’ve never seen anybody at this age in a position to do that,” he says — and is already drawing more eyes to OTE.
In July, Time beyond regulation Elite announced its latest round of signings, including top guards Tremayne Parker and Kanaan Carlyle from the Class of 2023. A few months earlier, the No. 1-ranked player from the 2024 class, Naasir Cunningham, signed.
Amen and Ausar did their part in recruitment by simply existing within the OTE arena and catching the eye of one in all Cunningham’s trusted advisers.
“He got here to our first two practices and he was like, ‘I want Naas playing against them each day next yr.’ And that is what began the ball rolling,” Fuller, who also recruited Cunningham, says. “He said if Naas can play against them each day in practice, he’ll be the most effective players within the NBA.”
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Being a selling point for a year-old alternative like OTE only adds to the early legacy of the Thompsons.
Yet it’s nowhere near probably the most intriguing part about these an identical twins.
“He’s my best friend,” Ausar says of Amen, who’s older by a minute. “Sometimes I feel happier for him than I feel for myself. After I’m watching the sport, I’m all the time cheering for him… His shot has gotten so significantly better. Growing up, I remember there was some extent my older brother tried to make him left-handed. He used to get super frustrated.”
As of late, Amen is barely somewhat frustrated that he tends to flick his shooting hand to the appropriate after his release (“I do not know why I do this”). But he’s seen a lot improvement in his jumper, so he’s only considering positively about it.
He’s turn into the more vocal of the 2 on the subject of media — something he attributes to Ausar.
“It makes it a lot easier to maneuver into something knowing anyone, especially someone you have known your whole life,” he says. “[Ausar] is also one in all my biggest motivators. If I’m drained, I got to rise up. There is not any query he’ll make me rise up to work out. And I’ll be the identical way toward him.”
Ausar recently participated in an open run with Anthony Edwards, OG Anunoby and Collin Sexton without Amen, who tested positive for COVID-19 days earlier. Still, Ausar did the whole lot possible to maintain Amen sharp in the course of the temporary stretch he was unable to be on the court.
“Anything I learn, I attempt to teach him. We take videos of one another just to indicate one another,” Amen says.
Inevitably, the twins are in comparison with one another. They do not particularly mind. They agree Ausar has the higher jumper currently, while Amen bested Ausar by 1 inch within the vertical leap. Ausar insists his brother merely has “perfected the art of jumping,” and is not necessarily a greater athlete.
“I didn’t dunk until I used to be in tenth grade because I used to be afraid to hold on the rim,” he says.
They’ve barely different handles but prefer the opposite’s.
“His is more twitchy,” Ausar says. “More powerful, like he kilos it loads harder. Mine is more like finesse, attempting to size you up type and stuff.”
By the point they really enter the draft, a few of those minor details could change. They are not finished products, in spite of everything.
Perhaps there will be more of a distinction between the 2 and the best way their careers project within the NBA. It’s happened to only about every pair of twins who’ve played within the NBA, from Dick and Tom Van Arsdale within the Nineteen Seventies to Brook and Robin Lopez currently.
What won’t change about Amen and Ausar is their immense desire to make it within the NBA. Given their unusual path and the additional weight they’re carrying for Time beyond regulation Elite, the sense of satisfaction could be just as great.
“They stay of their lane they usually’re just locked in,” Ollie says. “I do not think they’ll let anything get of their pathway.”