CLIPPERS INTRODUCE 2011 DRAFT PICKS
By Seth Burton, June 27, 2011


Photos: Varon Panganiban

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Four days after being selected in the 2011 NBA Draft, the newest members of the Los Angeles Clippers were unveiled to the media on Monday at the Clippers Training Center in Playa Vista. Teammates at the University of Georgia the previous three seasons, second round selections Trey Thompkins (#37) and Travis Leslie (#47) were excited to be able to take the next step in their basketball journey together.

The players flew in from Georgia on Sunday night and took part in Monday morning workouts with Clippers coaches before addressing the media.

“It is definitely a blessing to be on a team like the Clippers,” Thompkins said. “I’m looking forward to playing with this young nucleus. I feel like we will be an exciting team, and then just to add Travis, to that makes it so much easier. To have someone that I have spent the last three years of my career with who is actually my best friend, it is great.”

Leslie, 21, had to wait a little longer than his friend Thompkins, 21, before finding out his dream to play in the NBA would be a reality.

‘It was very tough,” Leslie said about watching the draft go on for 46 picks before his name was called. “I sat for a long time. But things happen for a reason and now I’m in a great place, a great situation and to be here with one of my college teammates, I’m just excited to get started.”

Thompkins  was with his family watching the draft proceedings in an Atlanta sports bar and was ecstatic when the Clippers called his name with the 37th pick. A few minutes later, and two selections before Los Angeles was back on the clock, he was on the phone to Leslie, telling him, “I think you might come with me.”


“When it happened, we were on the phone together,” Leslie said. “It was a great feeling and we were both so excited.”

Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey is also excited to add the athletic Georgia duo to the young and promising Clippers core.

“We are really happy,” Olshey said about the two newest Clippers. “Anytime you can walk out of a draft room and end up with two players that were rated way ahead of where you drafted them, it is exciting. We’ve tracked these guys for a long time. They were both successful at Georgia in the SEC and they were both big-time high school players.”

Olshey had targeted the 6-foot-10 inch Thompkins for awhile, and had made the decision prior to the draft to attempt to grab him with the 37th selection.

“Trey is an inside-outside, high-level skill player,” Olshey said about the 2010-11 First Team All-SEC performer. “He’s got a great skill to size ratio. He can step out and shoot it, and he can put the ball on the floor.”

Thompkins  averaged 16.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals as a junior last season while appearing in 34 games.

“Trey’s skill is very impressive,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “The way he can shoot the basketball, he’s got a soft touch.  This week that they are here working out is very important for him, and for both of them, so we will be able to get to know each other and get them to feel as comfortable as possible.”

Trey Thompkins
Trey Thompkins
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Having a former college teammate around will definitely help the process of settling in, but Thompkins has the added advantage of hailing from the same hometown (Norcross, Georgia) as Clippers forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who appeared in 81 games for the Clippers during his rookie year last season.

“Al-Farouq and I went to middle school together,” Thompkins said. “I’ve watched him most of his career and I watched him on the Clippers last year, so obviously I got a good look at Blake [Griffin], Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon and the rest of the young nucleus of guys. It is definitely a good situation to come into.”

It also should be a good situation for the 6-foot-4 inch Leslie, who averaged 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in 33 games last season at Georgia and finished his three-year collegiate career as one of the top rebounding guards in the country. However, the athletic and explosive guard is perhaps best known for his high-flying and thunderous dunks, including one over former University of Kentucky and current Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins that immediately gained legendary status in Georgia and on You Tube.

“Travis is very athletic,” Del Negro said. “He just takes off. He just has incredible athleticism.”

Everyone but the Clippers opponents are already counting down the days until the newest Clips rookie will team up with the reigning NBA Slam Dunk Champion on a fast break at STAPLES Center.

“He’s one of the best dunkers in the NBA,” Leslie said about his new teammate Blake Griffin, “And I was one of the best dunkers in college basketball, so I’m just going to bring what I’ve got to the table here. I’m up for the challenge. I know that it is going to be hard, but I’m up for it and I’m going to work my heart out.”

Travis Leslie
Travis Leslie
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As second round selections, both Thompkins and Leslie know that getting drafted was just the beginning, now the real work of being an NBA player begins.

“We’ve got two more great young prospects to go with our group,” Olshey said. “They are certainly going to blend in seamlessly. We’ve got a culture of work in here and we will continue to get better.”

Both Thompkins and Leslie are ready for the opportunity.

“I’m going to stay in the gym and just keep working to get better and better,” Leslie said.

“It’s important to get that work in,” Thompkins said. “I want my teammates to know that I’m ready to work and ready to be a good teammate. I feel like we will be an exciting team and our record is going to skyrocket.”

 

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