The NBA revealed the 18 players that will make up the first-annual "Rising Stars Challenge" at the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend. The game, formerly the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge, features TNT analysts Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley picking teams from a pool of nine rookies and nine sophomores. Those 18 players are as follows:
ROOKIES: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Derrick Williams (Timberwolves), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Brandon Knight (Pistons), Kemba Walker (Bobcats), Markieff Morris (Suns), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Marshon Brooks (Nets).
SOPHOMORES: Blake Griffin (Clippers), John Wall (Wizards), Evan Turner (76ers), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Greg Monroe (Pistons), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Paul George (Pacers), Landry Fields (Knicks), Tiago Splitter (Spurs).
Several top-10 draft picks were left out on both sides. Rookie top-10 picks absent include Enes Kanter (Jazz), Jan Vesely (Wizards), Bismack Biyombo (Bobcats), Jimmer Fredette (Kings) and Klay Thompson (Warriors). Sophomore top-10 picks not selected include Derrick Favors (Jazz), Wesley Johnson (Timberwolves), Ekpe Udoh (Warriors) and Al-Farouq Aminu (Hornets).
The 2012 Rising Stars Challenge will be played on Friday, Feb. 24 in Orlando as part of All-Star Weekend.