Bryce Thompson and Trey Alexander both come from well known basketball families, and have longed been tipped as becoming the next big time prospects to come out of Oklahoma. Their consistent production on the court in recent months has started to indicate these two are indeed on the path to matching the hype that seemingly has followed them around since grade school.
Excluding Oklahoma’s current talented group of seniors, Thompson and Alexander are a step above the rest of the state when it comes to potential. If Thompson’s Tournament of Champions and Alexander’s Putnam City Invitational are any indication, they might just be the top players in state already. Both led their teams to tournament championships in stacked fields as the clear “alpha dogs” on their teams, and earned MVP honors at the event.
Thompson and Alexander have shared a similar developmental path. Both entered high school as skilled players, and have gradually become the “man” for their teams. It’s clear when watching both, they not only want to be great but have a better understanding of how to achieve greatness than the average player in Oklahoma. Some of this could be credited to how their fathers have raised and pushed them. As there seems to be an eye on bigger and longer term success, over short term and past success.
While of similar background, height, positions and both known for scoring; there are differences in their games. Tale of the Tape will give a breakdown of those current differences, and what it means for each prospect going forward.
Shooting: Edge Thompson
The 918 native started his high school career known primarily as a spot up weapon. While his game has evolved, shooting is still Thompson’s calling card. He’s an excellent spot up weapon, and now has become an exceptional mid-range shooter off the dribble. One of the best components of the Hornet’s game is his ability to hit contested shots. Closeouts and hands in his face do not seem to bother him at all, which was on display against the tough defenses of Kingfisher and Tulsa Memorial.
Compared to most players in Oklahoma, Alexander is a better shooter than them. He’s good in the mid range and seems to have a knack to always hit the big.clutch three pointer. But he’s currently a step below the elite shooters in Oklahoma. As he’s yet to develop that eye test feeling that every jumper feels automatic. Thompson also has the edge with a quicker release and being consistently more comfortable at shooting a step or two beyond the three point line.
Attacking the Rim: Edge Alexander
One of the traits that makes the Charger so tough to defend is his body control. Alexander rarely looks bothered or out of control when attacking the rim. He’s currently not overly explosive, but has the ability to hang in air and adjust in traffic to get off shots. This ability also lends to him making a healthy living at the line each contest. If Alexander is able to get a look at the rim while near it, there’s a great chance it’s going in.
There’s a fluidness to Alexander’s game when attacking the rim and drawing fouls that currently isn’t there for Thompson. The Hornet doesn’t duck his head as often when attacking the rim as he did last year. While Thompson has made a big jump off the bounce this season but the edge still goes to the more natural Alexander. Alexander’s dribble moves are more fluid and direct when driving in the half-court than Thompson’s.
Playmaking: Edge Thompson
Passing has been one of the biggest jumps Thompson made in the later half of 2018. It started in June and July during the NBA Top 100 Camp and playing in the UAA, as the 6 foot 5 guard showed he’s a smart passer with a bit of flair to it. And it’s carried over into the season.
One of the best individual examples of Thompson’s improved decision making and passing came against Tulsa Memorial. Bringing the ball up the court, Thompson had a double team closing in on him, he maintained eye contact on a teammate in the corner. This prompted the help defenders to rotate over, while Thompson rifled a smart no look pass to an open teammate near the rim, leading to two easy points. He’s also able to rifle crips, passes that hit teammates in rhythm in tight spaces in the half-court.
There’s a strong argument that Thompson would not have been able to make that pass this time last year. Similar double teams in the PCI, by the OKC Storm and Putnam City West did give Alexander pause. As teams start to focus more and more on the Charger, how he delivers the ball to teammates will be crucial. Along with his continuing development of ball handling against double teams and other pressure.
Transition/Adjusting on the fly: Edge Alexander
As evident in last year’s Class 4A State championship, Alexander is at his best when grabbing a rebound, pushing it and scoring. When there are free flowing aspect to games, he will find weak points and score easy buckets. The inverse seems to be true for Thompson, who excels in more structured settings.
When teams are scheming to stop Alexander in the half court, he will find ways around it to still impact the game. The defensive rebounding is one example, while he also has a smart and crafty feel to his off the ball movements The Charger scores more unexpected points, with an unpredictably of how the ball finds him. While when familiar with Thompson’s game, all the points can seem to be excepted and predicted. Which means that when basketball loses some of the structure and turns into a free flowing aspect like jazz, Alexander is currently the better freelancer.
Athleticism: Edge Thompson
This trait is where the 16, nearly 17 year old Thompson has the biggest edge simply due to being older than Alexander, who doesn’t turn 16 till May. Alexander would currently not be classified as an explosive player when it comes to next level athleticism. Of course this time last year, neither was Thompson. He now is, which is shown in how he blocks shots, and dunks in transition at ease.
The jump in Thompson’s athletic ability seems to have come in line with when his growth slowed down and he became more comfortable with his body. Alexander is still growing, so while this current favors Thompson, the athleticism debate could have a different outcome in a year.
The Verdict and the Future:
The jump between sophomore and junior year, usually is one the biggest developments a player makes while in high school. That jump has Bryce Thompson as a better all around player than Trey Alexander. To aid in his physical maturity jump, Thompson has had more exposure to elite players and competition. Which is important as in Oklahoma they’re both big fishes in a small pond. Meaning in the long run they will be judged more in how they perform against against other state’s top players.
Currently, the 918 product has had more opportunities to compete against older and top national competition. That has shown in the development of his all around game. Perhaps the biggest example of that is when Booker T beat Tulsa Memorial at the Tournament of Champions. Thompson scored 25 points and was the best player on the court featuring the Boone twins. And he accomplished that feat without hitting a single three pointer, something that would’ve seen impossible a year before.
Needless to say, that does leave an exciting bit of unknown for Alexander. Just how different and improved will his game be in a year’s time when he’s stronger and faster? When he has cut his teeth against older and better national foes?
They are among the current elite in Oklahoma, with upcoming opportunities to establish themselves among the better players from Oklahoma since then turn of the century. As much as people will measure Thompson and Alexander against each other over the next couple years, if they are truly are going to be elite, they will be chasing the legacy of others. Names like Trae Young, Shake Milton, Xavier Henry, Blake Griffin and Kelenna Azubuike come to mind.
The future has always been bright for both prospects. If these recent months are any indication, it’s only going to get brighter.
Want a chance to see these two play and judge them yourselves? Trey Alexander and Heritage Hall are competing in Newcastle Tournament this weekend. While Bryce Thompson and Booker T Washington are playing in the Jenks-Union Tournament (finals are at Jenks on Saturday).