The art of the double-double is a mystifying stat. Players can reach it in numerous ways. They don't even have to score points to record a double-double, you just have to record 10 or more in two of the five stat categories.
Just like how the double-double is mystifying, so is Auburn's Unique Thompson.
The junior forward began her basketball career as a freshman in high school, played in AAU with future SEC opponents, and even used volleyball to help hone her craft.
That is why it is fitting that Auburn women basketball's career record holder in double-doubles is Thompson. As she has learned and developed from each of her coaches, she has used it all to become arguably one of the best junior forwards in the nation.
Through her three seasons on the Plains — with the SEC Tournament set for this week — Thompson has recorded 41 double-doubles, surpassing DeWanna Bonner, who held the record for 11 years with 40 double-doubles.
This season alone, Thompson has recorded 21 double-doubles, besting her freshman and sophomore totals, which were a combined 20.
She was named first team All-SEC on Tuesday after being the SEC's sixth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder this past season.
An accomplishment that seemed more like a dream than a reality when Thompson first arrived at Auburn has now finally come true.
"It feels amazing," Thompson told The Plainsman. "Coming here, I didn't think that would be something that I would accomplish, but you know we all have goals, and we have dreams, but that is something that I am very proud of myself for being able to do."
Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, sports did not always play a part in Thompson's life. She grew up as a fan of her older brother Jalen Thompson and traveled to his various games, but it wasn't until the ninth grade when she decided to play basketball at Faith Academy.
“So, my brother always played travel ball, so I just followed after my brother always going to his games," Thompson said. "I was his biggest supporter.”
While Thompson may not have started playing basketball until the ninth grade, it was her 10th-grade year before she was able to play in her first game for Faith Academy.
Not by choice, of course, and not because of the coaches, but because of the state of Alabama. According to her high school coach, Thompson was required to sit out a year because she transferred to Faith Academy, which was in the same county as her middle school.
Thompson was able to practice with her teammates and learn from her coaches during her ninth-grade year, but she could not play in games.
She learned from her position coach, Gainey Sullivan, and current athletic director and former women's basketball head coach, Woodie Head.
It did not take the coaching staff long to find out that the 6-foot-3 forward was going to be something special.
"I've been doing this a long time, and you know 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 girls are rare, especially in South Alabama," Head told The Plainsman. "I'll tell you the first thing that impressed me the most of all about her was how she ran the floor. A lot of big girls don't run the floor well, but she runs the floor extremely well. And then of course around the basket, she was really good and learned to play defense a lot better.
"So, I'd say around midway through the first year that we had her, we felt like she was going to be big-time."
Basketball ability was not the only thing that the coaching staff saw in Thompson, as her leadership skills shined on and off the court.
She always asked what she could do to help her teammates on the court. While off the court, she, at times, led the team in its Christian devotion lessons before or after practice.
Thompson did not just excel on the court in basketball but also succeeded on the court in volleyball while at Faith Academy, a sport that she did not expect to play in high school. She just wanted to play basketball in high school.
She may not have wanted to play volleyball in high school at first but understood later on that it helped with training for basketball. Volleyball helped her with "getting in shape wise" because the sport has a lot more running than people realize, she said.
The sport also helped Thompson with her rebounding as "going up to spike a ball is the same thing as getting a rebound." While volleyball may not have been a sport she considered before high school, she impressed in her short time playing the sport to have numerous colleges send offers.
In three years of high school basketball, Thompson finished with 1,856 points, 1,308 rebounds and 220 blocks. Head believes Thompson could have set some of the school records if she had been with the program as long as Jasmine Rhodes, the record holder in points, rebounds and steals.
Rhodes played basketball for LSU from 2013-17 and had played on the varsity team at Faith Academy since her eighth-grade season.
The work to become a successful women's basketball player did not stop for Thompson after the high-school season ended. Starting in the spring after her 10th-grade season, she began playing for the Southern Starz, which play in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) organization.
Southern Starz is an AAU team located in Huntsville, Alabama, that has teams ranging from fourth grade all the way up through 11th grade. The teams are a mix of players that go to the program wanting to play, while some players are asked to join.
After going to watch Thompson play at Faith Academy, Starz Director and Thompson's AAU coach, Doug Bush, knew that she was a player that could benefit from playing for his program.
"In her case, I went and pursued her to come join our team," Bush told The Plainsman. "I went and watched her play, I met with her high school coach, told him what I felt like our program had to offer, and he was very accommodating. Then I spoke to Unique and got to speak with her parents and told them what I thought that our program had to offer and how she could benefit and how it would help in her recruitment and kind of over the long term."
Each team is called by its high school graduating class, and after joining the 2017 team, Thompson helped her team win an AAU national championship. The team captured the AAU 10th-grade Division-I national championship in 2015, Thompson's first year with the program.
It was in AAU where Thompson gained experience against competition from all over the country facing off against teams as far as New York, California and even Canada. The experience of AAU and getting to play in front of all the coaches and players is one of the things that Thompson misses the most about her time in high school.
And she still faces off against familiar faces from AAU in the SEC as Myah Taylor, the starting point guard at Mississippi State, and Thompson were both on the same national championship-winning AAU team. Missouri also has one of Thompson's national title teammates on it in guard Haley Troup.
Coincidentally, Thompson’s 40th double-double, which tied the program record came against Mississippi State, and the record-setting 41st double-double came against Missouri.
Not to mention two of Thompson's current teammates also played AAU for the Southern Starz as freshmen Annie Hughes and Sania Wells played on the 2019 team.
It may seem like Thompson's development came from just one program or one program was more beneficial than others, but Bush disagrees. He understands what has helped make Thompson so successful is the advice and development from every coach along the way.
"I would say our program had a hand in that, but I would say that her development is an accumulation of you know everybody that played a part in it," Bush said. "Her high school program, our AAU program, and I can tell you she has developed even further in her time so far at Auburn.
"There is no doubt that the staff at Auburn has also helped greatly with her continued development."
Just like how a double-double can be achieved in so many ways, Thompson has become the player that she is by learning from all kinds of programs and coaches — which, in turn, has helped her become not only a great Auburn athlete but a great Auburn leader.
Even with this meteoric rise for Thompson, like most siblings, older brother Jalen stubbornly won't give Unique credit.
Jalen, who played football at South Alabama from 2015-19, still does not want to admit his sister is better than him at basketball. A sibling rivalry that started when they were kids continues to this day.
"Even to this day, he still swears that he can beat me in basketball," Thompson said.
"But we all know the truth."