By Ben Golliver
The NBA announced an 18-player roster pool Wednesday for the Rising Stars Challenge game that will take place on Friday, Feb. 15, in Houston during All-Star Weekend.
The Rising Stars Challenge, formerly known as the Rookie Challenge or rookie-sophomore game, will be headlined by 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, who was also selected to play in Sunday's All-Star Game, as well as 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and the early favorite for 2013 Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. The full roster pool includes nine sophomores and nine rookies who will play for teams managed by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal.
Sophomores: Kenneth Faried (Nuggets), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Brandon Knight (Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Chandler Parsons (Rockets), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Nikola Vucevic (Magic) and Kemba Walker (Bobcats).
Rookies: Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Bradley Beal (Wizards), Anthony Davis (Hornets), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Alexey Shved (Timberwolves), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers) and Tyler Zeller (Cavaliers).
The rookies and sophomores will be mixed together in this format, rather than playing on separate teams as in some years past. The rosters will be set on Feb. 7 and a fan voting process -- on computers and mobile devices -- will determine which players get to start.
The group of sophomores does not include the 2011 draft's No. 2 pick (Derrick Williams, Timberwolves), No. 3 pick (Enes Kanter, Jazz), No. 5 pick (Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors, who has been injured), No. 6 pick (Jan Vesely, Wizards) and No. 7 pick (Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats).
The pool of rookies sticks closer to the 2012 draft order, with seven of the top-nine picks chosen. The only exceptions: No. 5 pick (Thomas Robinson, Kings) and No. 8 pick (Terrence Ross, Raptors). Irving, Knight, Leonard, Tristan Thompson and Walker were all selected to the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge as well.