NEW YORK – NBA rookie star Zion Williamson and Japanese newcomer Rui Hachimura were among those named Friday to the NBA Rising Stars showdown between United States and World squads.
The global lineup has a 3-2 edge since the format began in 2015, but the Americans will have their chance to level the rivalry on Feb. 14 as a tuneup for the NBA All-Star Game two days later in Chicago.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Williamson, the top pick in last year’s NBA Draft, was selected as an U.S. team injury replacement for Chicago center Wendell Carter Jr., who is out with a sprained right ankle.
In four debut NBA games since starting his season three months late due to a knee injury, 19-year-old Williamson has averaged 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Pelicans.
Washington Wizards forward Hachimura, who turns 22 on Feb. 8, is expected to return this weekend from a groin injury that has sidelined him for the past six weeks.
Hachimura, averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, is the first Japanese player in the Rising Stars event. The Gonzaga University product was the first Japanese player ever selected in the first round of the NBA Draft when he went to the Wizards last year with the ninth selection.
“It’s one of the All-Star weekend festivities I’ve been watching as a kid, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Hachimura said.
“Gonzaga alumnus Domantas Sabonis (from the Indiana Pacers) made the All-Star team. I’m hoping we can arrange a time to meet.”
Slovenian swingman Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and American guard Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks will play in the Rising Stars event for the second time then serve as NBA All-Star Game starters, the first time since Jason Kidd and Grant Hill in 1996 that two second-year players will start the NBA All-Star Game.
Joining Doncic and Hachimura on the World team are New Orleans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker of Canada, Phoenix center Deandre Ayton of Bahamas, New York swingman R.J. Barrett of Canada, Memphis forward Brandon Clarke of Canada, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Canada, Washington center Moritz Wagner of Germany, Detroit swingman Svi Mykhailiuk of Ukraine and Minnesota guard Josh Okogie of Nigeria.
Alexander-Walker and Gilgeous-Alexander are cousins and among a record four Canadians in the event.
Williamson and Young are joined on the American squad by Charlotte forwards Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, Charlotte guard Devonte Graham, Miami guards Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and guard Ja Morant and Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall.
NBA opening-night rosters featured 108 international players from 38 nations, with all 30 clubs having at least one player from outside the U.S.