The Twins Who Went From “Best-Kept Secrets” to Likely NBA Lottery Picks

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Ausar Thompson is finding his rhythm. It’s just shy of 8:30 a.m., and he’s launching midrange jumpers, slowly inching back to the 3-point line. His workout hasn’t officially begun, but he’s already laser focused, tracking each make and miss. He wakes with that kind of concentration, telling himself before sunrise: “You’re not going to stop once in this workout.”

On this morning in January, he makes good on his promise. Pat Quinn, his shooting coach, fires him crisp chest pass after crisp chest pass, and Ausar bends low, releasing shot after shot, finishing each with a silky follow-through.

Amen Thompson, his identical twin brother, is watching intently on the sideline, itching to get on the court. The two push each other in one-on-one games, sometimes playing so late into the night that they curl up on the hardwood. “I’ve slept everywhere except up there,” Amen says, pointing to the third floor, which contains primarily offices and conference rooms.

The basketball facility here in Atlanta resembles an NBA setting, with bright lights, pristine practice courts, and a main showroom court with turquoise and orange trim. It belongs to Overtime Elite, a league for prospects that serves as an alternative path to pro basketball.

Amen and Ausar, who both recently turned 20, sacrificed their college eligibility to join OTE in 2021, the same year that it launched, trusting that a less traditional path was right for them. And they’ve blossomed since, leapfrogging from relatively unknown prospects to potential top-five picks in June’s NBA draft—and maybe even more.

“I think they can be Hall of Fame players,” says Kevin Ollie, who, until recently, was Overtime Elite’s head of coaching and basketball development.

The Ringer’s latest mock draft projects Amen and Ausar to be picked fourth and seventh, respectively. And while this historic draft features surefire no. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-2 wunderkind from France, and potential no. 2 Scoot Henderson, the electric point guard from the G League Ignite, Amen and Ausar might just become the steals of the draft.

The NBA has had several sets of twins, beginning with Tom and Dick Van Arsdale, who were drafted in 1965 and went on to become three-time All-Stars. More recently, Brook and Robin Lopez have been reliable contributors over their 15-year careers, with one-time All-Star Brook winning a title with the Bucks in 2021. Markieff and Marcus Morris have also proved to be assets to their respective teams over the past 12 seasons, briefly playing together on the Suns.

But the league has never seen twins of this age and with this kind of upside: Amen and Ausar are ultracompetitive 6-foot-7 guards with video game athleticism, scoring prowess, and near 7-foot wingspans (Amen’s is 6-foot-11; Ausar’s is 7 feet). Scouts praise their high basketball IQs, elite shot blocking, and tenacious defenses. They move like much smaller guards.

Many point out how high the two can jump, but the beauty of their games is the finesse with which they leap: how quickly they leave the ground, how long they hang in the air. They simply float. But it’s the intangibles that might ultimately distinguish them from their peers.

Amen and Ausar are each other’s motivators, each other’s muses. They push each other. They learn from each other. They fiercely protect each other. They each seem happier for the other’s success than for their own. Earlier this month, most OTE players voted for themselves for league MVP, but Amen voted for Ausar, and Ausar voted for Amen.

In high school, after Ausar fouled out of the state championship game, Amen carried the team, scoring 43 in the double-overtime win. After the buzzer sounded, Ausar hugged Amen, screaming: “Look!!! Look!!! Look!!!” He pointed to the “43” next to Amen’s name on the scoreboard, even giddier than Amen.

But on this January morning, Amen and Ausar are competitors. Each week, all 30 OTE players vie to see who can make the most shots. The contest is tracked and calculated by the Noah Shooting System, which provides real-time feedback on the mechanics of every attempt.

Amen is in second place this week with 3,396 makes. Ausar is first with 3,794—and counting. Now, Amen is really burning to shoot. He doesn’t want to be outdone by anyone, especially his brother. Yet after an Ausar miss, Amen snaps back into supportive brother mode: “Let’s go, Ausar! You got this, bro.”

Sometimes, that’s all one of them needs to do to motivate the other. They share these tiny moments nearly every day: a glance here, a tap on the back there, as if to say: Next play. You’re good.

They share an apartment and go everywhere together. They even share a pair of cheap headphones. One uses the left earbud, the other the right. They refuse to buy their own pairs. They don’t have driver’s licenses. They aren’t into fancy clothes or shoes. They had to be prodded to buy dress slacks for their high school graduation.

While many OTE players rush to find the auxiliary cord and turn on music as soon as they step onto the court, Amen and Ausar often work out in dead silence. There’s no joking. No half-speed reps. They are focused on fulfilling their childhood dreams of becoming the best players in the NBA. They are not speaking hyperbolically or arrogantly when they say that. They radiate humility. They’re down-to-earth, personable, and a little shy at first. While many around them gush over how high they’ll get drafted, Amen and Ausar are focused on the more distant future: how to secure a second, third, and fourth NBA contract. They’re already studying film of NBA players they’ll be guarding.

“I’m nowhere near where I could be,” Ausar says, adding later: “I just got to not let a day go by where I didn’t get better.”

Amen feels similarly. “Wherever I get drafted, I can just chill because I got a couple million? No,” Amen says. “It’s about being the best, being legendary. Being the third pick don’t make you legendary. Being whatever pick doesn’t make you great.”

Amen and Ausar ache to become the players they dream of. They’re perfectionists. They believed in themselves—and each other—when others didn’t see their potential. They didn’t have professional trainers, but they always had someone to play one-on-one or watch film with. They didn’t mature within the traditional USA basketball feeder system, but they took a risk, together, in joining OTE, even though the league didn’t have a facility at the time.

They come from a family of dreamers. Of risk-takers. Of people who see beyond the present moment. Their parents, Troy and Maya, gave Amen and Ausar each the same middle name, after all: XLNC, as in excellence.

Adam Hagy/Overtime Elite

Amen’s and Ausar’s lives have taken on a fishbowl quality. Scouts and pundits critique their every move and ask the question Amen and Ausar have come to dislike: “Which twin is better?”

Amen and Ausar understand that, naturally, there will be some comparison, but they don’t like being pitted against each other. “They hate it,” says Maya, “but they don’t wallow in it.”

The two are almost always referred to as the Thompson Twins, as if they are a single entity. They are often misidentified in articles or photo captions. Many call both of them “Twin.” Of course, that began when they were children. Some of Maya’s coworkers could distinguish the two babies in photos only because Amen would start crying as soon as the camera flashed—which also led them to nickname him “Tears.” Even in their teenage years, they had to tell their parents: “We’re not the same person!”

These days, as they’re developing into young men, they want people to know that although they’re each other’s biggest champions, they are indeed two different people. Two different people with distinct desires and styles and tendencies and thoughts.

“We are individuals,” Amen says.

“Obviously it’s the easiest thing to do, compare me to Amen,” Ausar says. “I try not to let people’s perception bother me.”

But the chatter can be loud.

Amen is way better than Ausar.

Ausar can’t play the 1.

Amen needs to work on being better without the ball.

Truth is, they’re equally talented but make different impacts on the floor. And they have similar personalities but different dimensions to them. “A lot of people want to ask, ‘Who’s better?’ It’s a hard question to answer because it just depends on what you want,” says Damien Wilkins, OTE’s general manager and head of basketball. “They’re both really special.”

Amen, who traditionally plays point, easily beats defenders off the dribble, using his quickness to get to the cup. He badly wants to prove to everyone that he’s the best on the floor. He jokes that he wants to grow a beard just because someone told him once that he couldn’t do it. Sometimes he overthinks, in a good way, because he cares deeply about the game.

So does Ausar. Ausar is a bit more laid-back in demeanor than Amen, but he’s just as athletic and skilled in the open floor. Ausar’s more of a combo guard who can get to the rim with quick change-of-pace moves. There’s a finesse to him, a patience that begets his explosiveness. He sees the play ahead of the play, so focused on every detail that he’ll sometimes dissect film of a single play four times. He’s willing to try new things on a whim, whereas Amen has to feel things out before stepping into the unknown.

They both play extremely hard, especially on defense. They have a knack for making incredible weakside blocks. They cover so much ground so quickly that David Leitao, their OTE City Reapers head coach, often jokes that he will text one of them one day to congratulate them on winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. “That’s the potential that they have,” Leitao says.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Leitao continues, “and three or four times a week, they do something I’ve never seen.”

Their coaches are most impressed, though, by their humility, the way they carry themselves off the floor. Amen and Ausar are indeed throwback players with old-school values trying to navigate a landscape that values flashiness and followers. They didn’t get their first phones until midway through middle school, later than many of their peers. They hardly post anything on social media.

They would rather make the right play than go viral for a dunk, which is rare for two players who are capable of jumping out of the gym and ironic for two faces of a league that is known for amplifying highlight plays to its large social media following.

“The highlight is what started Overtime,” says Ryan Rossi, the company’s director of social media. “For a long period of time, people would refer to this as ‘the dunk league.’” Rossi remembers the first time he met Amen and Ausar. They told him they didn’t like cameras or social media. Rossi was a little taken aback. “This is going to be a tough job, isn’t it?” he thought.

He soon saw that it would not be. Amen’s and Ausar’s passions for the game, for playing both dazzling and smart, drew plenty of admirers. On a fast break this season, Amen headed downcourt and spotted supreme dunker Trey Parker pointing upward for an alley-oop as the crowd inhaled in anticipation. Amen gave him a bounce pass instead. A collective sigh permeated the arena.

“Hey, man, throw it up,” Parker said to Amen in the next timeout. Amen explained that the 6-foot-10, 248-pound Somto Cyril, who has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, would have blocked a lob. A few possessions later, though, when Amen found himself wide open for a dunk, he looked for Parker and gave up the ball so Parker could have his moment in the sun. The crowd went wild as Parker hammered one home.

But outside of OTE’s facility, narratives persist. When the twins aren’t being compared to each other, Amen and Ausar joke that they are seen as the “consolation prize” in this draft compared to Wembanyama and Henderson.

If anything, that’s motivated them. They’re excited to show off the progress they’ve made on their shots. And they can’t wait to play Victor and Scoot. They want to prove they are just as talented. Still, they aren’t concerned about others’ opinions. They remember something their mother tells them: “Show them who you are.”

You set the tone,” Maya tells them. “You set the narrative. Don’t let anybody else set that for you. Make sure you show them who you are.”

Overtime Elite, too, is trying to define its own narrative. Unless you’ve been to an OTE game or spent time at the facility, it’s hard to grasp what the company actually is. That may be because it’s many things. In a literal sense, it’s a league with six teams that practice separately and compete against each other throughout the winter season. It’s a place for prospects, most of whom are high school–aged, to gain exposure, as college coaches and NBA scouts regularly show up (they’ve had over 500 scouts in the building since the beginning of this season in late October).

Still, some hoops traditionalists question its legitimacy. Dominick Barlow, who played with OTE in its inaugural season and regularly trained with Amen and Ausar, remembers the comments he received when he signed with OTE: “The stuff I saw on social media, people calling us as players ‘dumb’ and that we ‘only care about the money.’”

But at a time when more top prospects are embracing nontraditional paths to the NBA, the fledgling league has a lot to offer. Barlow, who now plays for the Spurs’ G League team, is grateful for how OTE helped him develop his game. While college teams are prohibited from exceeding four practice hours per day and 20 per week, players at OTE have as much time as they want to work on their skill sets. “[OTE] did a great job of keeping their promise, in the sense of you could get into the gym and get better, and that’s going to get NBA personnel in the building to watch you play.”

OTE is also a place where prospects can receive an education while working on their games, as players can earn a high school degree and have the option to waive the minimum $100,000 salary to maintain their college eligibility.

The sprawling facility has space for classes and individual study pods. Quotes from Maya Angelou grace the walls. Stacks of books sit on every table. There’s an “affirmation station” nearby, with little pieces of paper with messages like: “I express my creativity.” There is a 4-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio.

That’s something that attracted Tony Tiller and his son Bryson, who is currently the fourth-ranked prospect in the 2025 class, to seal the deal and sign Bryson up with OTE. Bryson previously attended Pace Academy, a college preparatory private school in Atlanta.

“The thing that took us really over the hump [with OTE] was the academic side,” Tony says. He liked the way OTE’s instructors went in-depth with subjects, offered individual attention with the material, and were always available if he asked: How’s Bryson doing? How is he in this class, that class?

“I wanted to make sure the other side was there,” Tony says, “because we’re about building the whole person. The whole young man. Not just one side of them.”

All players take a class twice a week called “pro habits” to prepare them for the next level, which includes media training, financial literacy, basketball analytics, nutrition education, and mental wellness. For some players, OTE provides more structure than they’ve previously had in their academic and athletic lives. But OTE also has a close-knit feel. Staffers celebrate players’ birthdays with cake. They know what’s happening in many of the players’ personal lives.

OTE is still in its beginning stages, and it operates almost like a start-up. Many staffers wear different hats, and everyone hopes it will sustain long term. It has made tremendous strides. Games are now broadcast on Prime Video and have a live DJ and entertainment. It feels like a pro atmosphere, but an eclectic one: You can find an NBA general manager, a 14-year-old influencer, and a college scout all sitting nearby.

Many OTE players won’t go to the NBA. Some have gone on to play professionally in other countries, and many will go to mid- and high-major college programs. But OTE has helped create a direct path to the NBA for Amen and Ausar. In turn, the two of them have helped legitimize the brand, allowing up-and-coming prospects and their families, like the Tillers, to view OTE as a viable route to the pros.

But while OTE has created an environment for the brothers to thrive, it’s Amen’s and Ausar’s work ethics that have helped them get to this position. They study NBA players’ footwork in their spare time. They’re constantly asking questions. They learned to study from their father, Troy, who filmed every game of their childhoods. They’d all watch it shortly after the game’s end.

Even when Amen and Ausar were 8, growing up in Oakland, California, they studied their favorite player, LeBron James. They’d write “6-foot-9,” James’s height, all over their bedroom in Sharpie. On the walls. On the stairs of their bunk bed. On the doorway.

They were convinced that if they wrote “6-foot-9” enough, they’d will their bodies to sprout that high. “They just believed it and would eat more food or sleep more hours so that they could grow,” says Troy Jr., their older brother, who played at Prairie View A&M and in the G League.

Amen and Ausar would squeal, “We’re going to the NBA!” at random moments. They made a dream board and outlined their goals. Troy coached them, having them dribble 2 miles around the track with their left hand every day. They’d also hike 5, sometimes up to 9, miles through the Oakland hills while wearing weighted vests.

They played up to challenge themselves. “They were small but skilled,” Troy says. “They didn’t have the back-down thing in them.” They’d go from one practice to another. Even then, the two were always compared to one another. Back then, it was Ausar who was viewed as the better player. He played the 2 and regularly posted big scoring numbers. “I was always happy for his success, but I always wanted to be the best player,” Amen says. “I wanted to get to his level where at least people think we’re equal.”

One-on-one games were intense. Once, when they were 13, Ausar beat Amen, as he almost always did those days.

“Play me again,” Amen said.

“Bro. No,” Ausar said, walking away.

Amen threw the ball at him. When Ausar turned around, Amen slapped him so hard that Ausar’s ears were ringing. “I was trying my hardest not to cry,” Ausar says. They both laugh at the memory now.

As good as they were, they still weren’t nationally ranked. Troy would tell them: “You don’t want to be ranked right now.” What was important, Troy told them, was getting better.

Heading into eighth grade, they received an opportunity to attend a private school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, called Pine Crest. Former NBA player Brandon Knight had attended. Troy thought moving to Florida and attending the school was a great idea. Maya was torn. Her job was in Oakland. Their lives were in Oakland. She wanted to stay, until Amen offered a compromise: “You know what, Mom, I’ll stay with you.” He said that Ausar and Troy could move to Florida.

She was floored. That would be the ultimate sacrifice: one brother leaving the other. “That’s what turned me around,” she says. “There’s no way in the world I can separate twins. … I had to step back and swallow my pride and my fear and my emotions and let them go off into the unknown.”

The family decided that Troy would move with the boys to Florida, and Maya would stay in Oakland. It was painful for everyone. “I was preparing to mentally let them go after high school, and I wound up having to let them go at the end of seventh grade.”

But Troy has an uncanny sense of when to gamble, when to chase the unknown. He is a dreamer at heart. He believes in the “power of manifestation.” And something told him that this was the right decision.

It wasn’t easy. Everyone missed each other. Amen and Ausar tried to focus on doing the best they could in school and basketball. They made varsity at Pine Crest, playing up as eighth graders and quickly proving they could hang despite being about 6 feet and 130 pounds. “They just looked like two pieces of spaghetti,” says Barry Connors, former Pine Crest coach. They couldn’t even do 10 push-ups, but they played with poise, rarely leaving the gym. If it was closed, they’d find a nearby outdoor court and play one-on-one until dark. “It’s always been them against the world,” says Ike Smith, who took over for Connors after the twins’ sophomore year and coached them to a state title in 2021.

After practices, they’d pretend to walk out with everyone else, then head into the bathroom until they were sure everyone had left before sneaking back to the court. Then, they started growing nearly 2 inches every year. It must have been all those Sharpies, all that manifesting, because doctors had predicted they’d reach only 6 feet. They started to gain more national recognition heading into their junior years but still flew under the radar.

That’s when Tim Fuller, then director of scouting and recruiting for the budding Overtime Elite, first heard of them. He was headed to Louisville for a tournament when a friend mentioned their names: “They’re ranked in the below 50, 60, 70 range, but you should take a look at them.”

The first thing Fuller saw was very long arms. “Go Go Gadget arms,” he says. Flying through the air, dunking with tenacity. “Within the first five possessions, I saw them do things I had never seen a high school kid do on a basketball court,” he says. “These are the best, most athletic two-way players I’ve seen in all of my time scouting basketball.”

And yet, few people knew who they were. Fuller thinks that’s because of pandemic-related shutdowns. “If COVID hadn’t been in place, everybody would’ve already known,” Fuller says. “They were the best-kept secrets in basketball.”

Fuller, who became vice president of recruiting and player personnel, called Troy again and again. He texted. He called again. It took weeks to secure a meeting with the family. OTE barely existed; he was selling them a dream of what it could be.

“It was a serious risk,” Maya says, adding: “We put everything on the line for a concept. There was nothing but an idea.” Initially, Troy was all for it. Amen and Ausar weren’t interested, though Ausar was a little more open than Amen. Maya wasn’t sure. But eventually, after many long conversations with each other, Fuller, and the OTE staff, the family agreed to take another leap of faith.

Adam Hagy/Overtime Elite

When Amen and Ausar moved to Atlanta to start at OTE, they knew it wouldn’t be easy. They would have to adjust to life in a new place, and they would have to tackle the flaws in their games head-on—most notably, shooting. That meant relearning the entire motion, not just one aspect of their forms.

“It was the whole thing,” says Quinn, who, in addition to being the twins’ shooting coach, is a skill development coach at OTE.

Neither had ever had a shooting coach. They didn’t even know how to hold the ball properly. Amen would put his shooting hand on the side of the ball instead of behind it, creating a curve-spinning ball. Ausar didn’t spread his shooting thumb, causing the ball to come off the wrong fingers and not go straight.

Quinn first started working with Amen because Quinn was an assistant coach for Amen’s team at the time. (Ausar was on a different team last season.) Amen’s backspin needed work. His arm wouldn’t extend all the way. His knees would touch. In the first two weeks of training, Amen and Quinn didn’t shoot a single shot. Quinn had Amen throw one-handed chest passes back and forth so he could practice getting his shooting hand behind the ball to get the correct backspin.

“Most players will lose patience; especially most players as talented as him will be like, ‘Man, forget this,’” Quinn says. It’s extraordinarily difficult to relearn a movement as fundamental as shooting at 17. But Amen was all in. He thought to himself: “I’ve gotta trust somebody to help me.”

Then, Quinn started working with Ausar too. Ausar’s form was slightly more advanced than Amen’s, but not by much. Some days were hard. Both would feel discouraged. They would spiral into doubts. At times, they were afraid to shoot in front of others, let alone in games.

“Am I ever going to get there?” Amen would wonder.

But he and Ausar would always come back the next day more determined, flushing the negative thoughts away. Quinn would send them videos of great NBA shooters having bad days. He’d tell them they couldn’t get down on themselves. They learned how to correct their mistakes. “If you could feel it, you could fix it,” Quinn would say.

These days, their forms look as different as night and day from those early sessions. It’s still a work in progress, and Amen and Ausar are committed to that work. But scouts have continued to knock their shooting abilities as if they haven’t advanced at all. It’s another narrative that hounds the two of them. But it’s just that: narrative. “People think they know the full story, but they only have a glimpse,” Ausar says.

Amen and Ausar know that they need to improve. They believe their best basketball is ahead of them. “They’ve only been coached and trained for 15 months at this type of level,” Quinn says. He can’t even fathom how much better their shots will be in six months. A year. Two years. Five years.

They are only 20.

They can each feel themselves growing more confident. They are no longer hesitant to shoot. And they are sure that they made the right choice coming to OTE. Had they gone to college, they say they wouldn’t have had as many hours to work on their forms, or had the support from their coaches to keep shooting in games. “College, it’s about the program. It’s about winning now,” Amen says. “And at OTE, it’s about making sure that player is ready for the league or wherever is next for them.”

Amen and Ausar are learning to let go of being perfect. Ausar remembers meeting Stephen Curry at the Warriors superstar’s camp and asking him: “When you’re not shooting great, how do you stay consistent with your workout?”

“No matter what, you gotta finish the workout,” Curry said. “At the end of the day, you just gotta look back at the work you did.” Curry then told him about his shooting slump. “You have to take it week by week, even if you didn’t shoot great.”

Ausar would internalize those words when he found himself in a bit of a slump when OTE went to Spain last August for a few games against top European clubs. Ausar had some lingering injuries and was disappointed in his performance. “I was second-guessing myself too much,” Ausar says.

He confided in Amen when the two got back to the hotel. Amen had never seen his brother’s confidence shaken. It surprised him, because unbeknownst to his brother, he had looked up to Ausar all his life. And on this night, he wouldn’t let Ausar beat himself up any longer.

“Bro, you’re the best player I’ve seen,” Amen said. “There’s so many parts of your game that I wish I had.”

Amen allowed himself to be even more vulnerable and say things he never had: “I was always trying to catch up to you. For real. I’ve always wanted to play like you. You’re better than me.

You’re that dude,” Amen said. “You are.”

He looked at his brother. There was his mirror. The person who reminded him of who he was, who he could become. They understand one another, and the expectations that sit upon each of their shoulders, better than anyone else on this earth. And for this one moment, alone in Spain, they held each other’s burdens, hoping to make them just a little bit lighter, even for one night.

The shooting leaderboard at OTE continues to shift. There’s a new king. Amen has now taken the lead with 6,844 made shots. Of course, he had to steal the top spot back from his brother.

Their time at OTE is coming to a close, but it concluded on a storybook note: In the final seconds of the championship game against the YNG Dreamerz in early March, Amen dribbled to the right side of the court, drew the defense, and kicked it to Ausar in the opposite wing for the game-winning 3 and OTE crown. They screamed, celebrated, and hugged.

But of course, soon after, they were back to work. Back to shooting. Their focus has shifted to preparing for the draft. But underneath the hustle and bustle is the uncomfortable reality that they will soon have to separate for the first extended period of their lives. They’ll likely be drafted to different teams. It will be another adjustment as they make their own ways in the world and find their own identities.

Amen and Ausar aren’t worried. At least not yet. They say they’ll miss each other and probably FaceTime multiple times a day.

“But when I see him? When we play him?” Ausar says, his face brightening. “He’s not going to score a point.”

Ausar’s smile turns serious. Then it turns into a scowl. “Zero.”

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