Welcome to the NBA, Clipper Rookies
Ryan Menezes, Clippers.com | 12/19/11

Travis Leslie saw his college teammate and good friend Trey Thompkins go off the board with the 37th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, but Leslie failed to look any lower on the draft board when he heard Thompkins’ name.

Leslie hadn’t noticed that the Clippers, who had just taken Thompkins, got to choose again just 10 picks later. But it hit him when he heard his name called as the No. 47 pick.

“I really didn’t know,” Leslie said. “I didn’t think it would happen, but when it happened I was very excited.”

After spending three years together at the University of Georgia, Leslie and Thompkins now get to continue as teammates in the NBA. Their friendship goes back even longer than that -- both know each other from growing up in the Atlanta suburbs.

“It’s made the transition so much easier, always having someone I can turn to.” Thompkins said.

Thompkins and Leslie, both 21, signed before training camp and are on a team they both say they fit in well with. The Clippers’ relative youth is something that makes that prep-to-pro transition even easier. And with a sprinkling of seasoned veterans on the roster, both have knowledgeable resources to lean on.

“The fact that we have some younger guys here is cool because you get to grow older with each other, learn and experience things together,” Thompkins said. “The vets that we have, they’re guys we can turn to and help us out anytime that we need it.”

The Clippers did not have a first round pick in the 2011 Draft, but Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey was just fine with the coup he got out of his two second-rounders.

As Olshey sees it, both Leslie and Thompkins fit the model for the team he has constructed.

“I think we stole Trey Thompkins in this draft. He’s been one of the best basketball players in this camp so far from a basketball skills standpoint,” Olshey said. “Travis Leslie’s got incredible upside.”

Thompkins stands 6-foot-10 but as big as he is, he won’t be used exclusively in the post. His jumper, which stretches from mid-range to outside the arc, is something he’s worked on his entire basketball career. That keeps him as a threat to shoot at all times, like he did at Georgia where he hit 79 3-pointers over three years.

The 6-foot-4 Leslie already has a few YouTube dunk mix tapes to his name from his time at Georgia. He brings above-the-rim athleticism at the shooting guard position, and the “upside” Olshey mentioned.

Their roles on the court are yet to be defined. What is definitive is that both will have time and room to grow. After all, they look around them, see all the talented team the Clippers have, and figure they’ll fit right in.

“So far we all click together. I feel like it’s going to be a great year,” Leslie said.

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