Splitter and Leonard Selected for 2012 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal to serve as GMs and Draft Teams; TNT Analysts Mike Fratello, Steve Kerr to be part of coaching staffs

SAN ANTONIO (February 8, 2012) – The NBA announced today that Spurs second-year forward Tiago Splitter and rookie forward Kawhi Leonard have been named as two of the 18 players selected to participate in the 2012 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be held on Friday, Feb. 24, in Orlando during NBA All-Star 2012.

Joining Splitter from the Sophomore class are: DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Landry Fields (New York Knicks), Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons), Evan Turner (Philadelphia 76ers) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

Splitter has seen his numbers increase in every statistical category from his rookie season. Through 26 games, he is averaging 9.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists in 21.1 minutes while shooting a team-best .623 (94-151) from the field. On Jan. 21 at Houston, he scored a career-high 25 points, connecting on 11-of-13 shots from the field and 3-of-5 free throws, while pulling down 10 rebounds. This season he has scored in double figures 13 times compared to 10 times as a rookie.

Leonard is joined by fellow first-year players MarShon Brooks (New Jersey Nets), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats) and Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves).

In 26 games, Leonard is averaging 7.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.12 steals in 23.7 minutes, while shooting .453 (78-172) from the field. Among rookies he ranks 11th in scoring, third in rebounding, fourth in steals and sixth in field goal percentage.

The participants in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge were selected by the NBA's assistant coaches, with each team submitting one ballot.

This year, a new format is being implemented to a game that has historically featured NBA rookies facing off against sophomores. For the first time, rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal will serve as the general managers of the two opposing teams - TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ - each with nine man rosters, drafted from the aforementioned pool. TNT's Kenny Smith will serve as the honorary Commissioner and Ernie Johnson will host the live BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft on Thursday, Feb. 16, on NBA TV at 7 p.m. ET.

Last year in Los Angeles, the Rookies won for the second consecutive year, 148-140. Wall earned MVP honors after recording a record 22 assists, five more than Chris Paul managed in 2007.

TNT Analysts Mike Fratello and Steve Kerr will be part of the coaching staffs for the teams, with Fratello joining TEAM CHUCK and Kerr joining TEAM SHAQ. The Head Coaches for both teams will be the lead assistant coaches from the 2012 NBA All-Star Game coaching staffs. The East and West coaching staffs will be determined by the best record in each conference through games played Feb. 15.

The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge will be televised live nationally on TNT at 9 p.m. ET and also will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio, while NBA.com will make live audio available to fans in multiple languages. NBA games are broadcast to 215 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

NBA All-Star brings together the top NBA players and performers for a week of competition, community service and world-class entertainment. Among the many other exciting All-Star events are Sprite Slam Dunk, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Haier Shooting Stars and NBA All-Star Jam Session.

Player Team Pos. Ht. Wt. Prior to NBA/Home Country Exp.
MarShon Brooks New Jersey G-F 6-5 200 Providence/USA R
DeMarcus Cousins Sacramento C 6-11 270 Kentucky/USA 1
Landry Fields New York G 6-7 210 Stanford/USA 1
Paul George Indiana G-F 6-8 215 Fresno State/USA 1
Blake Griffin L.A. Clippers F 6-10 251 Oklahoma/USA 1
Gordon Hayward Utah F 6-8 210 Butler/USA 1
Kyrie Irving Cleveland G 6-3 191 Duke/USA R
Brandon Knight Detroit G 6-3 189 Kentucky/USA R
Kawhi Leonard San Antonio G-F 6-7 225 San Diego State/USA R
Greg Monroe Detroit C 6-11 250 Georgetown/USA 1
Markieff Morris Phoenix F 6-10 245 Kansas/USA R
Ricky Rubio Minnesota G 6-4 180 FC Barcelona/Spain R
Tiago Splitter San Antonio F-C 6-11 240 Saski Baskonia/Brazil 1
Tristan Thompson Cleveland F 6-9 227 Texas/USA R
Evan Turner Philadelphia G-F 6-7 205 Ohio State/USA 1
John Wall Washington G 6-4 195 Kentucky/USA 1
Kemba Walker Charlotte G 6-1 172 Connecticut/USA R
Derrick Williams Minnesota F 6-8 241 Arizona State/USA R