By Harry Allison
It’s now official.
Sixers Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor are two of the NBA’s rising stars.
The NBA has announced the list of participants for the Rising Stars Challenge and Noel and Okafor were both selected to participate on the U. S. team. It marks the third time in team history that Philly has had multiple representatives selected to the event (three players in 2015 and two in 2005).
The game will take place at Air Canada Centre on Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. ET as part of NBA All-Star 2016 in Toronto and will be televised by TNT.
Noel, who was also selected to last year’s Rising Stars Challenge, is averaging 10.5 points, a team-leading 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.6 steals per game this season. Per Basketball-Reference, the only other player since at least 1983-84 to hold averages in points, rebounds, steals and blocks as high as Noel through 115 career games was David Robinson (1989-91). He is just the second Sixers player since at least 1983-84 with at least 200 blocks in his first 115 career games, joining Shawn Bradley who blocked 344 in the same span from 1993-95 (Basketball-Reference).
Okafor is averaging a team-leading 17.4 points per game, in addition to 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. The third overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Okafor has scored at least 20 points in 18 of his first 41 career games, leading all rookies in that category. He is the first center to score at least 712 points through his first 41 games since Orlando’s Shaquille O’Neal (967) and Charlotte’s Alonzo Mourning (768) each did so in 1992-93 (per Basketball-Reference). Okafor leads all rookies in points per game (17.4) and minutes per game (30.8).