BELGRADE, Serbia — College basketball would not begin for an additional month, and the blockbuster matchup between high 2023 NBA draft prospects, Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson, is slated for Oct. 4 and 6. For followers and NBA scouts who’re eyeing subsequent yr’s draft, one in every of the most proficient lessons in current reminiscence, they had been in a position to get an early have a look at projected lottery picks, 6-foot-7 twins Amen and Ausar Thompson on a 14-day European tour with Overtime Elite, taking part in in Spain and Serbia.
The twins entered the Ranko Zeravica enviornment in Belgrade an hour earlier than tipoff to get pregame photographs up. It was their sixth recreation in 10 days. The staff performed 4 video games in Spain and capped off their journey in back-to-back video games in opposition to Mega Basket and SC Derby in Belgrade. For Amen and Ausar, this was their first journey to Europe.
“I did not go to sleep till 6 am after we first acquired to Spain. The jet lag was real,” Amen instructed Yahoo Sports. “I by no means thought I’d be in Europe. I at all times had a concern of flying over water.”
The twins, together with seven different teammates, made the nine-hour flight from Atlanta and did not actually know what to anticipate. The health club in Spain did not have air con, leaving everybody’s sneakers and jerseys soaked after follow and video games. There was new meals and a distinct tradition, and everybody on the journey soaked in the expertise.
“This journey was extra than simply taking part in basketball,” Overtime Elite head coach Kevin Ollie instructed Yahoo Sports. “It’s been about being round your teammates on the street, in a international nation, and you need to depend on one another. It’s about being uncomfortable and not figuring out the language and understanding you need to push by that and all of them did that. Eating completely different meals, experiencing completely different tradition, it was all new to them and everybody took it in stride and grew from the whole expertise over right here.”
Amen and Ausar confronted their hardest competitors but, squaring off with former professionals like Marc Gasol and groups with gamers that had been generally 10-15 years older than the 19-year-olds.
“In the recreation, you do not actually even discover as a result of we’re battling,” Ausar stated. “But then afterwards you are like, ‘Oh, that was Marc Gasol.’ He actually performed 13 years in the NBA.”
There had been a number of NBA scouts and executives in Spain and Serbia to get a primary have a look at the lengthy, athletic guards. In Serbia, there have been scouts and executives from 26 NBA groups with the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves sending two or extra scouts to the video games.
“You do not get a second likelihood to make a primary impression,” Ollie stated. “I instructed our guys, ‘You get one likelihood.’ It may be one person who sees you and it may be the final time he sees you, so you possibly can present feelings throughout the recreation, however do not be emotional.”
Even in opposition to harder competitors, each Amen and Ausar adjusted nicely to greater gamers in the put up and a distinct tempo to the European recreation. Against Mega Basket, the twins completed with 18 factors every with Amen including 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks. Ausar had 11 rebounds and 5 assists in the 90-87 loss.
“I’m making an attempt to point out the NBA scouts my recreation and I’m simply taking part in like me,” Ausar stated. “I’m not making an attempt to do something particular or completely different as a result of they’re there. I at all times need to be teammate, I need to hustle onerous, play protection, and simply play each possession prefer it issues.”
Overtime Elite opened the first recreation in Serbia with an alley-oop move from Ausar to Amen. This is one in every of the solely occasions the twins will play alongside one another main as much as the draft. Growing up, it was Amen who performed the level and Ausar was on the wing as a two-guard. Before signing with Overtime Elite, the pair had been one in every of the greatest backcourts in highschool basketball and caught the eye of high packages round the nation, together with Kentucky, Florida State, UCLA and extra.
There had been moments throughout the video games in Serbia the place each gamers made unattainable passes to one another, leaving followers and scouts in awe of the courtroom imaginative and prescient when the pair had been taking part in collectively.
“It’s actually enjoyable taking part in over right here as a result of it is most likely like that final time, for a minute, that we’ll be on the courtroom at the similar time,” Amen stated. “It’s simply humorous, even after a yr of not taking part in collectively, a few of the stuff continues to be there.”
Late in the second half in opposition to Mega Basket, a protracted rebound got here to Amen and with none hesitation, he threw a cross-court move to Ausar who was already breaking on the reverse wing in transition. It was a really high-level play that left scouts impressed.
“I knew as quickly because it seemed like the rebound was coming to him, I took off,” Ausar stated recapping the play. “I knew he was going to seek out me. That simply comes from taking part in collectively for therefore lengthy and you possibly can’t clarify it. He makes me higher on the courtroom. He is aware of that I do know, that he is aware of I’m going.”
“I knew the place he was earlier than I even threw that move,” Amen added.
The largest space of growth for each is their 3-point bounce shot. It wasn’t the greatest taking pictures efficiency for both participant with Amen going 0-of-5 from deep and Ausar unable to attach on a 3, going 0-of-10 in each video games.
“I simply really feel like I preserve placing all the work in and you need to preserve taking pictures,” Ausar stated of his 3-point shot. “Everyone has a foul taking pictures evening, everybody goes by off nights however I’m dedicated to the work and getting higher and I do know the shot will fall.”
“I’ve seen Steph Curry go 0-10,” Amen added. “I’m not Curry, by any means, but it surely’s simply the mentality of preserve taking pictures. People are fast to evaluate our recreation, however I understand how a lot we’re in the health club and I do know each our photographs have gotten loads higher so it’ll begin falling.”
Over the summer time, the pair had been in the health club understanding with Jabari Smith Jr., the No. 3 draft picks and one in every of the greatest taking pictures bigs in the 2022 draft class, and Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 total decide. Last month, they traveled to northern California for Curry’s SC Select camp and had been in a position to work out with Curry’s taking pictures coach and decide the mind of the greatest shooter in the NBA. Both Amen and Ausar are meticulous college students of the recreation. There is loads to love about what they’ll contribute on the courtroom, particularly at the NBA stage. Both are snug as a major ballhandler and can guard positions 1-4 with their 7-foot wingspans and stable footwork.
“Every staff in the NBA is in search of lengthy wings that may be plugged in to a number of positions on the courtroom, and the Thompson twins verify quite a lot of packing containers,” one NBA scout instructed Yahoo Sports. “The athleticism is there, they preserve their composure on the courtroom and if the outdoors jumper begins to fall, they will have quite a lot of success at the subsequent stage.”
“I feel they each might be Hall of Famers, I actually do,” Ollie stated. “They need to proceed to work, they need to proceed to face the challenges day-after-day, however the sky’s the restrict. Actually, the sky is only a view for them. And they only have to remain in the health club, taking part in onerous and enhancing .”
The 2023 NBA draft might be the most original draft class ever. Projected at the high is the generational-type expertise out of France, Wembanyama and teenage level guard Henderson, who dominated the G League final season. The Thompson twins are at present projected as top-five picks, leaving probably only one decide in the high 5 for a collegiate participant.
There are many roads to the NBA and Amen and Ausar are paving their very own method. They kicked off their ultimate season with OTE on a excessive notice and gained worldwide expertise and made first impression on the European NBA scouts who’ve by no means seen the pair play in particular person.
“It’s simply been an important journey, in common. The stuff I’ve seen, the tradition, it is one thing I’ll always remember,” Amen stated. “It was the good approach to begin the season, and now, it is simply time to get to work and proceed to enhance.”
“I’m in the health club day-after-day with the one participant that pushes me to be higher,” Ausar stated of his twin brother. “We’re going by this course of collectively and truthfully, I can not wait till June.”