Staying Connected

June 23, 2011
Clippers Draft Central
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When Trey Thompkins was selected with the 37th pick in the NBA Draft on June 23 by the Los Angeles Clippers, fulfilling his lifelong NBA dream, the expected waves of emotion flowed over him. He couldn’t sum up exactly how he was feeling, but the emotions were all there. Happiness. Excitement. Relief.

As the draft moved on, Thompkins was hit with a completely different emotion when he heard the news:

“With the 47th pick in the NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select Travis Leslie from the University of Georgia“.

“I almost cried to be honest with you,” Thompkins said.” I called him around the 45th pick because I heard he might be coming to the Clippers too. He basically just answered me and said, ‘Hey, I think I heard the same thing.’ “

Both players could not have been caught more off guard. When the two junior standouts declared for the draft, they thought they would be leaving everything about the University of Georgia, well, in Georgia. Little did they know, their connection was not going to end just yet.

“I’m very glad that we’ll be playing together,” Leslie said. “It seems like we can’t separate. At Georgia, we were always together. And now we’ll be playing in the NBA together. It’s a great feeling.”

The Clippers basketball operations department claims it was merely coincidental, but it almost seems too good to be true for the dynamic duo from Georgia to stay together.

For three straight years, Thompkins and Leslie wreaked havoc on the SEC as a forward combo, combining for 30.8 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. The two balanced each other perfectly, with Leslie playing the yin to Thompkins’ yang. Leslie provided the athleticism; Thompkins provided the size and skill. Leslie would slash to the rim; Thompkins would stretch the defense with his jumper. If one guy had a weakness, you could bet it was a strength for the other.

“We got one guy with an incredibly high skill ratio that’s a nice counterpart to what Blake [Griffin] gives us at the [power forward position],” Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil

Olshey said. “And we added another guy on the wing that can be a lockdown defender in the second group. We think they’re both a good fit for us.”

Judged to be one of the more NBA ready prospects in the draft because of his high basketball I.Q. and playmaking ability, Thompkins is looking to fit in right away.

“I think I have a chance to contribute immediately,” Thompkins said. “I have guys on the team that I’ve known for years.”

Wait a second. Guys? As in multiple people?

“Al-Farouq (Aminu) and I went to middle school together,” Thompkins said while laughing. “We were actually the reason that we both started playing ball. He was tall, I was tall, and we got together and told each other we’d play on the same team in middle school. We definitely built a relationship at a young age.”

“Right when I got picked by the Clippers, Farouq texted me and said, ‘Wow, small world.’ “

Small world doesn’t even begin to describe it. What are the chances of college teammates ending up on the same team in the pros? What are the chances of middle school teammates reuniting in the NBA? It all seems pretty unique, and everyone from coach to player thinks it can be an advantage for the young Clippers going into next season.

“I’m excited because we get some size and we get a backcourt guy,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “There will be some familiarity with those guys playing together in college, so that’s a plus as well.”

Georgia is a long ways away from Los Angeles, but with Aminu and Leslie by his side, Thompkins should feel right at home.

“I feel like I’ll be able to step in and build relationships with my teammates,” Thompkins said. “And we’ll be able to take steps forward together.”

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