Spurs’ Neal, Blair named to rookie challenge rosters

Rookie ChallengeThe NBA announced the rosters for the 2011 Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam to be played during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

Spurs rookie Gary Neal will be representing the rookie squad while DeJuan Blair represents the sophomores. Spurs assistant coach, Mike Budenholzer, will coach the rookies.

The participants in the Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam were selected by the NBA’s assistant coaches, with each team submitting one ballot.

Joining Evans on the Sophomore team are: San Antonio Spurs center DeJuan Blair, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson, Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday, Oklahoma City Thunder forward/center Serge Ibaka, Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings and Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews.

Washington Wizards guard John Wall, the top selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, joins Griffin on the Rookie team, which also includes: Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, New Jersey Nets forward Derrick Favors, New York Knicks guard Landry Fields, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Wesley Johnson, Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe and San Antonio Spurs guard Gary Neal.

Last year in Dallas, the Rookies won for the first time since 2002. San Antonio’s Blair scored 22 points and grabbed a Rookie Challenge-record 23 rebounds in the Rookies’ 140-128 win. His performance marked the first 20-20 game in the history of the Rookie Challenge since the event was added to All-Star Weekend in 2000. Neal’s selection to this year’s game marks the fourth San Antonio player to participate in this event. Tony Parker played in the 2002 Rookie Challenge and Manu Ginobili was selected for the 2003 game as a replacement for Rockets center Yao Ming but did not participate due to injury.

I had a chance to speak with Neal about the possibility of him making the rookie team before Saturday’s Spurs-Rocket’s game.

“If I’m fortunate enough to make the rookie team, that would be great,” Neal said. “It would be an accomplishment for what I’ve done for the first half of the season.”

The full rosters for the Rookie Challenge are available on NBA.com.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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