EXCLUSIVE: Pistons’ Ausser Thompson talks after being drafted by Detroit

NEW YORK — Wins haven’t come in abundance for the Pistons. Their program is still growing and learning. However, trying to create an identity. It’s not there yet, but Detroit’s newest resident is here to help see it through.

Overtime Elite’s Ausser Thompson, selected No. 5 overall by the Pistons during Thursday’s 2023 NBA Draft, checks every box Detroit could hope for. Toughness, speed, agility, power, defensive prowess and the ability to wreak havoc in the open field. He was a Piston, for those old enough to remember what that was.

General manager Troy Weaver is big on people. That assessment is different from the court, though it carries more weight, perhaps more. Thompson, according to team sources, passed that test with flying colors. Detroit is trying to build a culture first on the road to building a successful program. Those two things go together. Weaver and Co. said Thompson would improve it.

At the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, Thompson and his brother, Amen, made NBA history and became the first duo in the top 5. Thompson came to the arena as excited as every prospect around him. Like his brother sitting next to him. Thompson had an idea where he was going. He said there’s a chance he’ll drop his meetings and workouts in Detroit and come to the Motor City. It happened. He is here. Now, Thompson joins an intriguing young Pistons center that could surprise some teams this season if the development goes right.

Within minutes of hearing his name, Thompson sat down and chatted Athletic About many topics.

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Read that conversation below.

I heard you and your brother were there for a few days when you worked in Detroit. You said on stage that you had a good feeling Detroit would pick you. Those conversations, the visit with Troy Weaver and I don’t know if Monty Williams was still there, what made you feel that way?

When I was there, Mandy was. I think it was his first day. They told me where the modern NBA is going — more flexibility on the court, being able to come off screens, being able to play defense. That was one of the main things. It was only when I was there that I felt the chemistry. I was excited there. I was impressed and left there. I thought it would be a very happy place to end up. Now, look at me.

You stay busy during the Pistons season. Have you ever been able to see them? How familiar are you with Kate Cunningham, Jaden Ivy and the roster?

I am familiar with the game of Gate. That’s my teammate. Coming out of high school, everyone looks up to him. Kate was my favorite player in that draft. I said he is going to be the first choice. I was telling Amin. It’s funny. He thought it would be Jalen Green, and now he’s with him in Houston. I am familiar with all their games. Jaden Ivey is super quick, an underrated helper and very athletic. James Wiseman, Jalen Duran and Isaiah Stewart … big bodies in the paint. Marvin Bagley. I know everybody. I am a big basketball fan.

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And with that, Overtime Elite is pretty new. Many people around the league talk about how difficult it is to scout. Plus you and your brother are a bit older than the competition you faced. What are your thoughts on the value of playing with Overtime Elite? If you hear or read about those reviews, concerns about counting yourself and your brother?

I can’t be angry. People have their own opinions. Even if what they say isn’t true, I’ll continue. I am so glad I went to OTE. If I had the chance to do it again, I would. You’re going to find out next year that there are a lot more players that haven’t been promoted. You’re going to see it. Many of them went their separate ways. They are always doing what they are going to do.

What is it about your game that you think people don’t talk about enough? Is there something you can show more at the next level?

I think I’m very confident with my IQ, finishing at the rim, becoming a better catch-and-shoot shooter, coming off screens … a lot of things that other people don’t see. I believe in myself. Detroit seems to believe me. I go to work every day, even if I don’t come in, I go to work. I believe in myself.

You and your brother are obviously very close. What’s something he doesn’t like?

I’d rather play video games than him. I’m not a big video game guy. He rarely plays. I’ll be on Fortnite with my friends and he’s like, ‘Oh, really? Let me climb.’ He will play a game.

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What do you do to pass the time?

I play video games with my friends.

What do you know about the city of Detroit?

The city was much more beautiful than people said. All my life I thought Detroit was worse than when I moved out. I know I went in the summer, but it was like a building, like a beautiful city. I liked it. I like culture. It reminded me of places I’ve been, culture-wise. I’m glad to be there.

You are a big J. I heard Cole is a fan. Favorite J. Cole song?

Rise and shine.

Can he get you a bucket?


(Top photo by Auser Thompson: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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