Thompson Brothers-The Orlando Times
Brothers Make A Difference By Investing Back into Their Community
BY JALESSA NEAL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
ORLANDO, FL- Orlando natives Dwight and Dmitri Thompson achieved success and acclaim but now they are using their talents to give back to their hometown. They are the founders and owners of the Rise League and DT Apparel, two brands that stand for perseverance and hard work, qualities they possess and want to inculcate in the youth of their community.
The Thompson brothers grew up in in Meadow Woods. The two oldest children of Dwight and Lisa Thompson’s three sons, they grew up playing multiple sports but the one they fell in love with was basketball. Two years apart in age, they graduated as state basketball champions from Orlando Christian Prep. Dmitri went on and played Division 1 basketball at Elon University- graduating with a sport management degree with a minor in communications. Meanwhile, Dwight went on to focus on his academics at the University of Central Florida-graduating with a marketing degree and a concentration in Sports business Management. Currently Dmitri is a professional basketball player overseas and Dwight is the assistant coach at Orlando Christian Prep.
Despite pursing different avenues professionally, they never forgot an idea they had in middle school. Growing up they realized that it was difficult to find a local basketball league that wasn’t AAU. It was also difficult to find trainers and mentors in the area as well. So, they envisioned building an organization that provided those resources to local players. In 2019 they decided to make that vision come to life, thus The Rise League was born.
Rise League is a nonprofit organization that consists of a youth basketball league, basketball camps, clinics, and training sessions. They just opened their own training facility in Orlando.
“We wanted to have the League this summer, but COVID came in we couldn't do it. Honestly, sitting around just watching all our guys not being able to work out and not being able to do anything made us really jumpstart that process,” said Dmitri, 24.
After receiving the keys July 10th, they took three months to renovate with their family, and the facility now has a basketball court, fitness training area, cardio area, and office space. They work with different organizations such as the Orlando Magic and ESPN to provide unique volunteer experiences for their players.
Currently there are three divisions: Middle Schoolers (6th-8th grade students), Junior Varsity (8th-10th grade students), and Varsity (11th-12th grade students). A JV program for girls is also offered, with future plans to expand girl teams in each division and add elementary school students.
Admission for the Rise League is $100 per season (7-weeks)- although it is not open to the public, Dwight and Dmitri decide who makes the cut.
While there are over 200 kids in the league, a person does not have to be part of the team to take advantage of the facility. However, it is a not a walk-in facility, you must contact them to check for availability. Personal training is $30 for one session (1 hour). Use of shooting equipment is an additional charge, $30 for half an hour, $50 for an hour.
“The Rise Up Training Facility has provided Orlando’s South East Community with a unique opportunity to mentor and develop young inspiring basketball student-athletes,” said Bernard Delano Mitchell Jr., M. Ed, Physical Education & Basketball Coach, Meadow Woods Middle. “Dwight and Dmitri always understood that every student-athlete has leadership qualities. They also made it their duty to bring those leadership qualities out of them.”
Even with a great idea and support, making their childhood dream come true wasn’t easy.
“The main obstacle was definitely time. My brother and I are very hands on with our business, we don't necessarily outsource anything so everything we do is just us two. We found a lot of times we were really crunched on time, so it was hard just trying to delegate different tasks,” said Dwight, 26.
“That's spot on because especially I was in [playing basketball in] Lebanon when all this first started. The Rise League idea came one day from my brother and we figured everything out while I was 1000s of miles away, with an 8-hour time difference, so time was basically the biggest thing that we had to work through.”
Nevertheless, the brothers prevailed and reached their goal. Motivated by their love for the youth, they believe that if they invest in them the future will be brighter. They encourage young ones in the community to follow their passion despite how others may think or feel about it and to put in the hard work, eventually it will pay off.
“I told them multiple times how proud I am of them for going back to their community to help those kids. I think that allows the youth to see that kids from their same school, their same environment, can come out and be successful,” said Treig Burke, Orlando Christian Prep Athletic Director/Head Basketball Coach (boys). “They're coming back and investing back into their own community and setting an example for the next group to come up.”
Dwight Thompson and Dmitri Thompson with some of the student-athletes that are part of the Rise League. These brothers are the co-founders of the Rise League and DT Apparel.
In addition to the league these brothers also founded a clothing brand, DT Apparel. Their slogan is “Rise Up, Take Courage, Do It” inspired by the bible verse Ezra 10:4.
The idea came when they wanted to donate to the Boys & Girls Club, since they were a part of the program in their youth and worked for the program as adults. They realized selling shirts would be a simple way to raise money. The money made for the donation ended up being a lot more than they had imagined and they took it as a sign. Shortly after they made their donation to the Boys & Girls Club, they decided to launch the brand in July 2018.
“I'm thankful that the parents allow us to train their kids. Everything that we're doing is basically just an idea if no one jumps in and follows us, so I'm just thankful for their support and them trusting us and allowing us to mentor and teach their kids,” said Dmitri.
With two thriving businesses, possible spring and winter tournaments next year, and more “big plans” on the way, the future is exciting for the Thompson brothers.
“I'm thankful for my family and I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to do something that I love every day,” said Dwight. “We're doing our best to get back to the community, we're investing in the youth and we're doing it with our passion, that is basketball. But at the same time, we're also giving back to our alma mater which we hold very dearly to us. The fact that it comes full circle from the neighborhood that we grew up in is just a blessing and we're extremely thankful.”
Check here for more information:
Instagram: @Rise_League @DTApparel2
Twitter: @League_Rise @DTApparel2
Address: 1800 Rhode Island Woods Circle, Orlando, FL