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How projected top-5 draft prospects Amen and Ausar Thompson fared in 1st real test overseas

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BELGRADE, Serbia – College basketball won’t start until a month from now, and a blockbuster matchup between the top prospects for the 2023 NBA draft Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson is slated for October 4 and 6. the most talented class in recent memory, they were able to get an early look at prospective lottery picks, the 6ft 7in twins Amen and Ausara Thompson on a 14-day European tour with Overtime Elite, playing in Spain and Serbia.

The twins came to the Ranko Zeravica Arena in Belgrade an hour before kick-off to take shots before the game. It was their sixth game in 10 days. The team played four games in Spain and ended the trip in a row with games against Mega Basket and Derby in Belgrade. For Amen and Ausar, this was their first trip to Europe.

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“I didn’t fall asleep until 6am when we first arrived in Spain. The jet lag was real,” Amen told Sportzshala Sports. “I never thought I would be in Europe. I’ve always been afraid of flying over water.”

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The twins, along with seven other teammates, made the nine-hour flight from Atlanta and didn’t know what to expect. The gym in Spain did not have air conditioning, so everyone’s shoes and jerseys were soaked after training and games. There was new food and a different culture and everyone on the trip was soaked in the experience.

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“This trip was more than just a basketball game,” Overtime Elite head coach Kevin Ollie told Sportzshala Sports. “It was about being close to your teammates on the road, in a foreign country, and you have to rely on each other. It’s about being uncomfortable, not knowing the language, and understanding what you need to get through it, and they’ve all done it. different food, exposure to a different culture, it was all new to them, and everyone took it easy and grew out of all the experience here.”

Amen and Ausar Thompson from Overtime Elite.  (Art by Mo Haidar/Yahoo Sports; main photo courtesy of Overtime Elite; background photos courtesy of Mark Kuhlmann and TBT Tournament)
Amen and Ausar Thompson from Overtime Elite. (Art by Mo Haidar/Sportzshala Sports; main photo courtesy of Overtime Elite; background photos courtesy of Mark Kuhlmann and TBT Tournament)

Amen and Ausar faced some of the toughest competition, battling former pros like Marc Gasol and teams with players who were sometimes 10-15 years older than 19-year-olds.

“In the game, you don’t even notice because we are fighting,” Ausar said. “But then you’re like, ‘Oh, that was Marc Gasol. He really spent 13 years in the NBA.”

Several NBA scouts and executives traveled to Spain and Serbia to get their first look at the long, athletic guards. Serbia had scouts and leaders from 26 NBA teams, including the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Minnesota Timberwolves, who sent two or more scouts to games.

“You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Ollie said. “I told our guys, ‘You have one chance.’ It might be one person who sees you and that might be the last time they see you, so you can show emotions while you play, but don’t be emotional.”

Even with stiffer competition, both Amen and Awsar adjusted well to larger players in the post and a different pace than the European game. Against the Mega Basket, the twins finished with 18 points each, with Amen adding 10 rebounds, nine assists, five steals and four blocks. Ausar had 11 rebounds and five assists in the 90-87 loss.

“I’m trying to show the NBA scouts my game and I’m just playing like me,” Ausar said. “I’m not trying to do anything special or out of the ordinary because they are there. I always want to be a good teammate, I want to work my hardest, play defense and just play every possession the way it matters.”

Overtime Elite opened the first game in Serbia with an alley-up pass from Ausar to Amen. This is one of the few times the twins will play together before the draft. As a child, it was Amen who played the main role, and Ausar was on the flank as two defenders. Prior to signing with the Overtime Elite, the pair were one of the top back courts in high school basketball and attracted the attention of top programs across the country, including Kentucky, Florida State, UCLA, and more.

During games in Serbia, there were moments when both players made impossible passes to each other, leaving fans and scouts in awe of the look of the court when the pair played together.

“It’s a lot of fun to play here because maybe last time, for a minute, we’ll be on the court at the same time,” Amen said. “It’s just funny, even after a year of not playing together, something is still there.”

At the end of the second half against “Mega Basket” a long rebound came to Amen, and he, without hesitation, gave a cross pass to Ausar, who was already breaking down on the opposite flank in the transition. It was a very high level game that impressed the scouts.

“I knew that as soon as he thought the rebound was coming towards him, I took off,” Ausar said, summarizing the game. “I knew he would find me. It’s because we’ve been playing together for so long and you can’t explain it. He makes me better on the court. He knows that I know that he knows that I’m leaving.”

“I knew where he was before I threw that pass,” Amen added.

The biggest area of ​​development for both is their 3-point jump shot. It wasn’t the best shooting performance for any player, with Amen scoring 0 for 5 from deep and Ausar failing to connect with the trio, scoring 0 for 10 in both games.

“I just feel like I keep working and you have to keep shooting,” Ausar said of his three-point shot. “Everyone has a bad night on set, everyone has a weekend off, but I’m determined to work and get better and I know the shot is going to be bad.”

“I saw Steph Curry going 0-10,” added Amen. “I’m not Curry by any means, but it’s just the mentality to keep shooting. People are quick to judge our game, but I know how long we’ve been in the gym and I know that both of our shots have gotten a lot better. so it will start to fall.”

The pair worked out in the gym over the summer with Jabari Smith Jr., the No. 3 draft pick and one of the best shots in the 2022 draft class, and Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick. Last month, they traveled to northern California to Curry’s SC Select camp, where they were able to work out with Curry’s shooting coach and choose the brain of the best shooter in the NBA. Both Amen and Ausar meticulously study the game. They can do a lot on the court, especially at the NBA level. Both are comfortable as primary ball handlers and can defend positions 1-4 with their 7-foot wingspan and solid footwork.

“Every team in the NBA is looking for long wings that can be installed in multiple positions on the court, and the Thompson Twins fit the bill,” an NBA scout told Sportzshala Sports. “The athleticism is there, they keep their composure on the court and if the outside jumper starts to fall, they will have great success at the next level.”

“I think they both could be Hall of Famers, I really do,” Ollie said. “They have to keep working, they have to keep facing challenges every day, but the sky is the limit. In fact, the sky is just a view for them. And they just need to stay in the gym, play hard and improve. .”

The 2023 NBA Draft will be the most unique draft class ever. Predicted at the top are the talent of the generation from France, Wembanyama, and young point guard Henderson, who dominated the G-League last season. The Thompson Twins are currently projected as the top five players, potentially leaving only one top-five pick for a collegiate player.

There are many roads in the NBA, and Amen and Awsar are forging their own path. They started their last season with OTE on a high note, gaining international experience and making a good first impression on European NBA scouts who had never seen the pair play in person.

“Overall it was a great trip. What I saw, the culture is something I will never forget,” Amen said. “It was the perfect way to start the season and now is the time to get to work and keep improving.”

“Every day I’m in the gym with one player who pushes me to get better,” Ausar said of his twin brother. “We’re going through this process together and honestly, I can’t wait for June.”




Source: sports.yahoo.com

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