Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins Reps the World; Scores 22 Points and Shows Why He is an NBA Rising Star
It's Friday night. The 2015 NBA Sprint Celebrity All-Star game with all of its wackiness is over. Now we're on to a real game, with real players, the 2015 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, aka the Rookie Challenge.
The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge is an exhibition game featuring the youngest and brightest stars the NBA has to offer, with its participants revolving around 1st and 2nd year players making an immediate impact in the association.
The NBA Rookie Challenge's Ever Changing Format
The year 1994 was the NBA Rookie Challenge's inaugural year. The format changed in 1996 where the rookies of both the east and west conferences matched up against each other. Due to the lockout of 1999, the rookie challenge saw another modification to its structure, as the rookies (first-year players) would challenge the sophomores (second-year players) for bragging rights.
From 2012-14, TNT game-time analysts and former NBA superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley played the General Manager role. They selected players for each of their respective teams of first and second year players, playing a college style of two halves, modifying the format once again.
For 2015, the format was tweaked a little. The NBA rookies and sophomores, by selection, were split up based on their nationality, creating a USA vs. World matchup.
The World Conquers The NBA Rising Stars Challenge
On display, was the best of the U.S. against the best the World has to offer, and unfortunately for the red, white and blue, the World prevailed.
Andrew Wiggins, a Toronto native and representing Canada, was awarded the MVP, leading his fellow foreigners to a 121-112 win.
The United States usually dominates everyone else in basketball, but on Friday, Wiggins and Co. changed that.
Wiggins scored a team-high 22 points doing most of his damage from inside, using his size and athleticism to execute a series of breakaway dunks without any challengers. Wiggins' Minnesota Timberwolves teammate, Zach LaVine, who represented the U.S., also scored 22 points.
Defense isn't a priority in an exhibition of the players deemed as the "Next" in the NBA. So, Wiggins wasn't the only player from the World squad to show off.
Rudy Gobert of France, a player with the Utah Jazz, showed why he can be a dominant front-court player in the Western conference for years to come. He contributed a double-double in 18 points and 12 rebounds.
And, Brooklyn's own, Bojan Bogdanovic, hailing from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, also played well on a court he knows all too well, connecting on 3 of 7 three's, finishing with 16 points.
For the U.S., LaVine, Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) and Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic) are the names to remember, scoring 22, 17, and 22, respectively.
And the other player representing Brooklyn like Bogdanovic, Mason Plumlee, chipped in with 13 points.
The NBA Rising Stars Showcase Their Skills
Mason along with, LaVine, Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who all suited up for the U.S. vs. World game, also competed in Saturday's dunk contest. Between the four players, LaVine gave New York and all the celebrities in town a taste of what was to come on Saturday night.
Aside from his perimeter game, LaVine executed three dunks that defined why he was selected to compete in the final event of the Saturday night festivities.
In the first half with 9:26 remaining, LaVine went the length of the floor avoiding the defense and penetrated the lane, and finished with authority, drifting to his left.
And you know what followed; the crowd voiced its appreciation in "OOOOHS" and "AHHHHHS".
That's what this game is for, the highlight reel.
It's also meant for the NBA to showcase a collection of talent that could possess the next great group of stars to carry the NBA in the near future.
And in the result, although you can't read too much into the pick-up game, it shows how far the world has come, as far as basketball talent is concerned.
The last two first overall picks are not U.S. citizens, as both call Canada home, and one in particular received MVP honors for his performance Friday night.
"We competed, we entertained the people watching and the most important thing is we all had fun doing it," said Wiggins during his post-game press-conference.
The NBA is banking that Wiggins can entertain as a member of the NBA for the next 10 years and he along with quite a few others that played alongside him Friday are expected to do so.
If Milwaukee Bucks F Jabari Parker, the no.2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft was healthy, he would have guarded Wiggins tonight.
The Future is Bright for NBA Rising Stars
The public believes Antetokounmpo (Bucks) is destined for stardom.
Oladipo, Elfrid Payton (Orlando Magic), Dante Exum (Utah Jazz) and LaVine all have talent too, which is what makes this game so intriguing.
No one can project the careers of the players who suited up for this exhibition game. But for now, their immediate career success in the NBA is what got them this far.
Over time, they will have to take it to the next level.
"I think it was the best move for me," said Wiggins post-game referring to being moved as a no.1 pick from a contender to a rebuilding organization.
"It gave me more room, and put me in a position where I would have to grow up faster. There I would've been more of a role player, here I'm getting more time to shine and do what I was put in this league to do, and I am enjoying the process," Wiggins continued.
At least he is aware.
Latest from Gregory Alcala
- Brooklyn Nets Beat Milwaukee Bucks 129-127 in Triple Overtime
- NFL’s Buffalo Bills Striking First, Readying for 2015-16 Season
- Chasing Playoff Spot, Brooklyn Nets Making Moves
- NBA All-Star Saturday Night: Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
- NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT: The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Rises Again