The success of the Thompson twins has brought a lot of exposure to Overtime Elite, commissioner Damien Wilkins tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
Amen Thompson, who was selected fourth in this year’s draft by the Rockets, and Ausar Thompson, who went fifth to the Pistons, were looking for an alternative route to the NBA when they joined the new league two years ago. Wilkins says the twins were “great for business” and generated increased interest in the league, but he doesn’t promise all his prospects that playing for Overtime Elite will get them drafted.
“A lot of what we do here is showing them and being honest with them and not just validating what they think they are but actually being honest with them,” he said. ” We don’t promise them a pro path. What we promise is we are going to help them be better every single day. If you lean into the program that we’re giving you, you’re going to leave here a successful person. Now what that looks like now for you, it may not involve professional basketball.”
Based in Atlanta, the league provides another option for players to develop their skills apart from college basketball. They have access to top-notch training facilities to work on their games, along with academic help.
Wilkins, who had a long pro career after going undrafted in 2004, played two years at North Carolina State and two more at Georgia. He considers the environment for young athletes to be much better than it was 20 years ago.
“The biggest difference is just options. We were limited when I was coming up. We didn’t have anything like this,” Wilkins said. “We certainly didn’t have NIL. We didn’t even have social media. It was one thing and no matter how good we were or how hard we played, we weren’t profiting off of that at all. We might get a couple of pairs of shoes here and there but for the most part, anything more than that was an extra benefit that could take away your eligibility, now you see guys driving cars that people dreamed of having, going places, making tons of money in this space legally, appearing on platforms that just weren’t around or didn’t exist.”
Since the draft, Wilkins has heard from a lot more parents who want to explore what Overtime Elite can offer their sons. He calls it a “gift and a curse,” noting that there are few prospects with the natural talent of Amen and Ausar. Expectations will continue to rise with an upcoming Amazon documentary on the Thompsons and how they developed through the OTE program.
Wilkins has also heard the doubters who wonder how much Overtime Elite really helped the Thompson twins, so he and his staff are “super competitive” about proving they can produce more high-level prospects.
“We had to lace up our boots after the draft,” Wilkins said. “Can we do this again? Do we have enough (players) in the (program) to keep people coming back to us? We believe now that we do and we believe we can. Twelve pros in two years, that’s not bad so far. We understand we have a lot of work to do ahead of us, but I love where we’re trending.”