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Justin and Julian Champagnie charting different paths to NBA dream

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Their decisions were as different as their personalities.

Justin Champagnie, impulsive and outgoing, was convinced in February the NBA was his future and announced his plans in May. Julian Champagnie, an introvert by contrast who is more analytical, opted to return to school in early July after months of breaking down information and data.

The 6-foot-6 Champagnie twins from Brooklyn may look and sound alike, but that doesn’t mean they are the same. They are taking their own paths in their search for a lifelong dream.

“I’m happy; he’s happy,” Justin, a projected second-round pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, told The Post.

For most of their lives, they did everything together. They were on the same AAU team. They went to Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. They had the same group of friends. They were planning to attend the same college, too, after a year of prep school. But then Justin opted for Pittsburgh instead of the extra year of high school and Julian went to St. John’s.

Justin and Julian Champagnie have chosen different paths in the lead up to this year's NBA draft.
Justin and Julian Champagnie have chosen different paths to their basketball journeys.
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“At first, I was upset they were splitting up,” the twins’ mother, Christina, said. “It wound up being the best decision because they both did great.”

No longer are they referred to as “twin,” the name they both went by at Bishop Loughlin. They became individuals in college. They both led their respective conferences in scoring this past year as sophomores and emerged as elite wing-forwards nationally.

Led by Julian, St. John’s had the better season, finishing fourth in the Big East. Justin averaged team-highs of 18 points and 11.1 rebounds, but Pittsburgh finished under .500 overall and lost key players to transfer during the season. That was somewhat of a factor in Justin’s decision. After exploding for 31 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Duke, he was certain he was ready for the next level.

“I live my life with my gut. My gut has never led me wrong,” Justin said. “When it came down to making a decision, it felt like, ‘Yo, this is your chance, this is your time.’ Everybody was telling me, ‘Go back, don’t rush, go back,’ but that kind of pushed me even harder.”

Julian, meanwhile, didn’t hire an agent like Justin. He went through the process of testing the waters, gathering feedback and taking his time. Julian opted to go back to school for a variety of reasons. He felt he didn’t put his best foot forward due to a wrist injury and wasn’t comfortable getting taken late in the second round. Ultimately, Julian felt he couldn’t hurt himself by going back to school, and admitted to taking the “safe route.” Now he has a chance to really make a name for himself as one of the better players in college basketball.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if St. John’s has a renaissance season, gets to the tournament and he helps himself by 30 draft spots,” longtime ESPN NBA draft analyst Fran Fraschilla said.

Fran Fraschilla believes Julian Champagnie could help himself by 30 draft spots by returning to St. John’s.
for the NY POST Photo/Robert Sabo

Julian is known for his refined offensive skill set and smooth perimeter jump shot. Justin is the better athlete and rebounder, and profiles as a “3&D” prospect in the NBA who needs to up his 3-point percentage (31.3). Fraschilla believes both will have long careers in the NBA as role players. In his 16 workouts, Justin felt he showcased an improved jumper, along with his ability to get to the rim and make plays for others.

Justin thinks he is underrated entering the draft, much like the twins were unheralded three-star recruits coming out of high school. His status heading into Thursday is uncertain, which is fine with him.

“It just makes it that much sweeter in my eyes,” he said. “I believe I’ll get picked up by a team and I believe whatever team picks me is going to get the biggest sleeper in the draft. At the end of the day, it’s all about believing in yourself, and I believe in myself. I’m ready for whatever comes next.”

They have remained extremely close, talking daily during the draft process. The highlight of this summer was the NBA combine in Chicago. Their entire lives the twins dreamed about the NBA, talking as kids about playing in the league one day. Then they got a chance to experience it together. They had hotel rooms next to each other, and while Julian opted against joining Justin in this year’s draft, it was a special week.

Justin Champagnie (left) and Julian Champagnie (right) as children.
Christina Champagnie

“Sometimes kids don’t get to do what they want with the people they want to do it with, and that’s the person I wanted to do with, and I was able to do most of it with him,” Julian said.

Before they go their separate ways, they will get some time together this week back at home. The family will have a small draft gathering and Julian will be on the couch with Justin. Next year, it will likely be the same, only the roles will be reversed.

“In my eyes, if I make it, we’ve both made it,” Justin said. “Just having him there with me, it’s a success story to me already.”

Once it became apparent the NCAA was going to allow one-time transfers to switch schools without having to sit out, a fantasy among St. John’s fans of the twins reuniting in Queens began to make the rounds on social media.

Julian doesn’t think it was too crazy of a theory, had Justin not been so dead set on going pro.

“Maybe I would’ve gotten him to come to St. John’s — just maybe,” Julian said with a smile. “As long as Coach [Mike Anderson] would’ve taken him, I think I would’ve gotten it done.”

When that was shared with Justin, he shot down his brother’s notion.

“I tried to get him to transfer to Pitt. He tried to get me to transfer to St. John’s, but that didn’t work,” Justin said. “St. John’s is his home and Pittsburgh is my home.”

Going their separate ways has obviously worked out well for both. Soon, Justin will be a professional and Julian will be looking to lead his hometown school to its best season in decades.

Depending on where Justin lands, this may give them an opportunity to watch each other play in person for the first time since they were high school teammates.

“That’s going to be dope,” Justin said. “I’m going to be the loudest person in the arena.”



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