Dennis Smith Jr. will participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend, the NBA announced Wednesday. While the format has changed over the years, the Friday evening event is still a showcase for the league’s top young players.
Smith will play for Team USA.
“I’m blessed and humbled by it,” Smith said about his selection. “It’s an event that I’ve watched for a long time to come now — it’s changed up a little bit from the Rookie-Sophomore Game to the World vs. the U.S. but like I said, I’ve been watching that event for a long time and it’s a blessing to be there.”
Smith is teamed with players such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics will also play for Team USA as well as Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Chicago’s Kris Dunn, Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, and Atlanta’s John Collins.
Team World consists of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric, Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, Denvers’ Jamal Murray, Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield, New York’s Frank Ntilikina, and Memphis’ Dillon Brooks.
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding this season’s rookie class, as it is shaping up to potentially be one of the best in years. For his part, Smith is excited to be playing alongside his peers.
“Everybody’s really good so I look forward to playing with and against everybody,” Smith said.
This may not be the only event that Smith participates in during All-Star weekend, however. It was reported earlier this week that the NBA will extend him an invitation to be in the dunk contest as well. Smith, though, took to Twitter to say that he hadn't received anything from the league.
It’s a safe bet to say an invitation will be coming sooner rather than later, given his in-game aerial acrobatics. If Smith does participate in the dunk contest, he will be the first Mavericks player to do so since Michael Finley in 1997.
People are noticing Smith’s play and the selection to the Rising Stars Challenge is just the latest accomplishment for the young rookie. Even as the accolades continue to mount, Smith is still getting used to the experience.
“Just being in the NBA is surreal for me,” Smith said. “You know, from Fayetteville, North Carolina—Tera Gardens [Apartments]—and I’m in the locker room everyday with Dirk [Nowitzki]. So, it’s all surreal to me every single day.”