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Dennis Smith Jr. chosen for Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend

While it was reported in error this week that Dallas rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. had been invited to the 2018 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest (Smith refuted reports from Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania on Twitter), the high-flying rookie has officially been selected to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge.

The format for the challenge has changed in recent years from rookies vs. sophomores (second-year players) to Team World vs. Team USA. Smith will represent Team USA.

Smith is second in scoring on the Mavericks averaging 14.8 points per game. That mark is good for fifth among active rookies. He’s also fourth among rookies in assists (4.6 per game), fifth in steals (.97 per game) and seventh in minutes per game (28.4).

The rookie has nine 20-point games this season and recorded his first triple double in a win over New Orleans earlier this season.

“It’s a real blessing to be a part of it,” Smith said. “It’s something I’ve been watching my whole life. The whole weekend is something I’d watch with my family.”

Smith will be joined on Team USA by Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers), Brandon Ingram (Los Angeles Lakers), Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Kris Dunn (Chicago Bulls) and Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee Bucks).

Team World consists of Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Bogdan Bogdanovic (Sacramento Kings), Buddy Hield (Sacramento Kings), Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies), Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls), Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets), Frank Ntilikina (New York Knicks) and Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers).

I'm Zack Cunningham, a broadcast journalism major from Abilene Christian University's class of 2008. I've lived in Texas for 28 of my 31 years on this Earth and I've followed the Mavericks since 1998. My first memory of them was the 2001 playoffs and being extremely happy when they beat the Jazz, but sad when they lost to the Spurs in five games in the conference semifinals. However, seeing Dirk drop 42 stands out to me, punctuated by his dunk in garbage time. I covered high school sports for the Cleburne Times-Review from 2008-12 before moving into the tech industry. Most recently, in 2015 covered the Mavericks for the Fanatic briefly before moving to work with Mike Fisher at I am married to my beautiful wife, Jessica, and have been for just over five years now. We live in Carrollton with our dog, Zara, and cat, Drake. I'm looking forward to covering them again this season with the Fanatic!

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