Ben McLemore not selected to 2014 Rising Stars Challenge

Updated at 6:51 pm PT
Ben McLemore preparing to enter a game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The NBA announced the pool of players who will participate in its annual rookie/sophomore game at All-Star Weekend.  Noticeably absent from that list?  Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore.

“I don’t wanna say like it’s the end of the world,” McLemore said of not making the team before tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.  “Still got an opportunity to get better each and every day and go out there and perform at a higher level.”

McLemore found out the news from his agent, who told him earlier today that he wasn’t selected to play in the game.  He then received calls from Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro and head coach Michael Malone, who offered words of encouragement to the rookie guard.

“I talked to Ben today just to let him know that life is (full of) challenges and how you react to them,” Malone said pregame.  “So he didn’t make it, I know he’s disappointed, but there’s a lot of current All-Star players – Rajon Rondo, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge – who didn’t make the team as a rookie, but went on to be All-Stars.”

The 20-year-old guard has had his ups and downs with his transition from the college to professional ranks. McLemore got off to a positive start to the season, claiming Marcus Thornton’s spot in the first unit after the Kings’ first six games.  He went on to start Sacramento’s next 26 games and was even named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in October and November.

However, McLemore has mostly struggled the last two months of the season.  In early January, McLemore was relegated back to the bench in favor of Thornton and has played as a reserve for the last 11 games.  On the year, McLemore is averaging eights points, one assist and 2.8 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per contest.

There’s still a chance that McLemore could be added to the game.  Last year, Isaiah Thomas was initially snubbed an invite, but was added to the pool just days before All-Star Weekend by former King and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who was acting as the game’s honorary commissioner.  If McLemore is not added as a wild card, it would be the first time in five years that the Kings are not represented in the Rising Stars Challenge.

McLemore was selected seventh overall by the Kings in last June’s NBA Draft.  He’s not the only top pick who was left out the initial pool of players for the rookie/sophomore showcase. Among the other top 10 picks not included in the pool of players for this year’s game are Anthony Bennett (No. 1 overall), Otto Porter (No. 3 overall), Cody Zeller (No. 4 overall), Alex Len (No. 5 overall), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (No. 8 overall) and C.J. McCollum (No. 10 overall).

The Rising Stars Challenge will be televised on Friday, Feb. 14 in New Orleans.  The rosters for the game will be determined in a special draft taking place Thursday, Feb. 6 on TNT at 7 pm ET.  This is the third straight year that rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on two respective teams.  General Managers for the squads have yet to be announced.

Listed below is the pool of players for this year’s Rising Stars Challenge.

2014 Rising Stars Challenge Player Pool
Name Team Position Experience
Steven Adams Oklahoma City Thunder C R
Pero Antic Atlanta Hawks C R
Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks G/F R
Harrison Barnes Golden State Warriors F 1
Bradley Beal Washington Wizards G 1
Trey Burke Utah Jazz G R
Michael Carter-Williams Philadelphia 76ers G R
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans F/C 1
Andre Drummond Detroit Pistons C 1
Tim Hardaway Jr. New York Knicks G R
Terrence Jones Houston Rockets F 1
Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers G 1
Victor Oladipo Orlando Magic G R
Kelly Olynyk Boston Celtics F/C R
Mason Plumlee Brooklyn Nets F/C R
Jared Sullinger Boston Celtics F/C 1
Jonas Valanciunas Toronto Raptors C 1
Dion Waiters Cleveland Cavaliers G 1

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