Friday , Feb , 18 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Rookie Challenge to open All-Star Weekend

=== Rookie Challenge to open All-Star Weekend ===

(Sports Network) – The National Basketball Association brings its midseason
All-Star tradition to Denver beginning this evening, as it puts some
of its brightest young stars on display in the got milk? Rookie Challenge.

Cleveland star forward LeBron James, who will be doing double duty in the All-
Star Game on Sunday, will be leading the Sophomore team against the Rookie
squad. James is among the league leaders in scoring (25.4, 7th), steals (2.33,
2nd), assists (7.7, 5th) and minutes per game (41.4, 4th). The youngster will
be playing despite a case of the flu.

Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Denver’s Carmelo Anthony will also be in the spotlight
for the Sophomores. Wade, who will also be on the Eastern Conference All-Star
team on Sunday, has paid major dividends from being teamed with Shaquille
O’Neal this season. Wade is posting 23.5 points (10th) and 7.3 assists (7th)
per contest. Meanwhile, Anthony has posted 19.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9
assists per game.

Although thin up-front, the Sophomores will have talented Raptors center Chris
Bosh to utilize. Bosh, a lean 6-foot-10 post man, has posted 16 points and
8.2 rebounds per contest.

The rookie squad will be anchored by top overall pick Dwight Howard of the
Orlando Magic. Howard jumped directly from high school to the NBA and hasn’t
skipped a beat, averaging near a double-double with 10.5 points and 9.8
rebounds. The rookie club will be facing an uphill battle after rookie stud
Emeka Okafor of the Charlotte Bobcats had to bow out due to a sprained ankle.
Okafor had been the most impressive rookie to date, registering 14.8 points
and 11 rebounds per contest. Boston’s Al Jefferson got the late call to
replace the ailing Okafor.

The rookies will need Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng and guard Ben Gordon to
pick up their play to replace Okafor’s scoring production. Gordon has
registered 14.1 points per contest, while Deng has tallied 12.7 points
per game for the resurgent Bulls. Keep an eye on stat sheet stuffer
Andre Iguodala of the Philadelphia 76ers, who is posting 8.7 points, 5.9
rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Since the NBA shifted this game from an East-West affair to a Sophomore-Rookie
contest in 2000, the Sophomores own a slight 3-2 advantage. Last season, Amare
Stoudemire posted a got milk? Rookie Challenge record 36 points and 11
rebounds to lead the Sophomores to a 142-118 blowout of the Rookies. James
nearly matched Stoudemire with 33 points of his own for the Rookies in the
losing effort.