John Wall was the MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore challenge last year, as the 2010 No. 1 overall pick dished out a record 22 assists. He finished runner-up to Blake Griffin for rookie of the year and probably would’ve won the award if Griffin had started his career the year he was drafted.
Although his numbers are down this season, Wall still leads all second-year players in assists at 7.6 and ranks second only to the all-star Griffin in scoring average at 16.7 points (Yes, amidst the league-wide Linfatuation with the New York Knicks, Wall has actually produced better stats for the entire season).
Wall had a slow start to the season, but over his past 19 games, he is averaging 18.9 points, 8.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds. In his past six games, Wall is quietly averaging 21.8 points on 50.5 percent shooting and 9.8 assists. Emphasis on quietly, because when it came time for Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal to pick their teams for the Rising Star challenge on Feb. 24 in Orlando, Wall was the 12th player chosen out of 20.
Wall also was the sixth guard taken, behind Cleveland rookie of year favorite Kyrie Irving, Jeremy Lin, Minnesota rookie Ricky Rubio, Indiana second-year forward Paul George and New Jersey rookie Marshon Brooks. After O’Neal drafted rookie Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats, Barkley finally ended the waiting game for Wall and selected him.
Shortly after the teams were announced, Wall went on Twitter and wrote, “Motivation!!”
The game formerly known as the Rookie-Sophomore challenge had undergone a new format, which Wall was opposed to, with Barkley and O’Neal picking among a pool of 18 players. But Lin and Miami rookie Norris Cole were both added, with the NBA hoping to capitalize on Linsanity.
Wall will be on Team Chuck, along with Irving, Sacramento second-year forward DeMarcus Cousins, George, Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams, Utah second-year swingman Gordon Hayward, San Antonio Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard and Philadelphia second-year guard Evan Turner.
Team Shaq will feature, Griffin, Lin, Rubio, Detroit Pistons second-year big man Greg Monroe, Phoenix Suns rookie Markieff Morris, Walker, New York second-year guard Landry Fields, Cole, Detroit rookie Brandon Knight and Cleveland rookie Tristan Thompson.