Rookie-Sophomore Game Preview

by February 18, 2011

by Eldon Khorshidi / @eldonadam

Last year’s Rookie-Sophomore game was epic. DeJuan Blair owned the boards, posting 22 points and 23 rebounds, while Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings combined for 48 points, 13 dimes, and 12 rebounds to lead the Rookies to their first win in seven years. Given the raw talent that’ll be on display tonight, we should expect another show. There will be tons of ridiculous highlights, and by games end, fans will be reevaluating their perspectives on certain players.

Many familiar faces will represent the sophomore class, most notably Stephen Curry, Jennings, and Blair. Unfortunately, ‘Reke will sit out due to a foot injury.

We just received news Blake Griffin will be participating tonight, which makes this game exponentially more exciting. Will he be stopped? Can he be stopped in a game of this nature? In a game with lackadaisical defense and volume scoring, Griffin could easily have 30 points on 15 dunks tonight. He’ll be playing, but not with his ’09 draft class. Instead, Griffin and John Wall will make a run at history, trying to lead the Rookies to back-to-back wins for the first time ever. With Wall leading the break, fellow rookies Wesley Johnson, Landry Fields, and Griffin could eat buckets all night long.

Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I actually care about the Rookie-Sophomore game. Not necessarily the score, but I pay close attention to who makes a statement. All-Star weekend, and the Rookie game in particular, resembles playground ball and AAU style of play more than ever. Both squads are familiar with each other, as many of the participants matched up on the AAU circuit and in college throughout their teenage years. Both teams will play with an edge and swagger, doing their best to put on for the name on the back of the jersey and their respective draft class. Last year it was Russell Westbrook who made a statement, abusing the field for 40 points. Prior to that game, I had no idea Westbrook was a budding superstar. Now it’s obvious he’s a franchise point guard, arguably top-5 in the league.

I expect Jennings to be on his Compton-Dominguez flow, looking to push the rock and distribute, but also hitting the rookies with his unorthodox floater. I see Curry going off, possibly on some Russ Wess type of ish. If the defense backs off, Curry could break Daniel Gibson’s Rookie-Sophomore game record of 11 3-pointers. We should also expect to see some insane dunks, as dunk-contest participants Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan will join Griffin in this game.

An exciting matchup down low is DeMarcus Cousins against DeJuan Blair. Cousins has the obvious size advantage, but Blair is one of those guys who just gets the job done. His 20-20 game last year was no aberration. Cousins will also be playing alongside Wall and Eric Bledsoe, his former teammates at the University of Kentucky. As you can see, there’s lots of story-lines here.

I can’t pinpoint who’ll come out of the back-blocks and take center stage tonight, whether it be Fields showing he’s more than just a role player or Bledsoe looking to outplay Wall. Last year it was Blair, Evans, and Westbrook. In ’09, Kevin Durant willed the Sophomores to victory, scoring a record 46 points and earning MVP honors. In ’08, Boobie Gibson had 11 threes. Going back to ’07, David Lee achieved perfection, going 14-14 from the field en route to a game-high 30 points. Chris Paul also impressed, dishing out a record 17 assists.

We could rewind further, going back to Monta Ellis, Carmelo Anthony, or Kobe Bryant, but text won’t do you justice. The moving pictures below will. There’s some great memories, from Iverson to Kobe to Dirk to LeBron/Bosh/Wade/Melo all mic’d up. Tonight will be epic, but then again, maybe I’m just a weirdo.

Rookies                                                                                 Sophomores
Eric Bledsoe, L.A. Clippers, G                                        DeJuan Blair, San Antonio, C
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento, C                              DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, G
Derrick Favors, New Jersey, F                                       Stephen Curry, Golden State, G
Landry Fields, New York, G                                            *Tyreke Evans, Sacramento, G
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers, F                                       Taj Gibson, Chicago, F
Wesley Johnson, Minnesota, G                                    James Harden, Oklahoma City, G
Greg Monroe, Detroit, C                                                  Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia, G
Gary Neal, San Antonio, G                                             Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City, F-C
John Wall, Washington, G                                            Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee, G
Wesley Matthews, Portland, G