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All-Star Weekend in Cleveland got off to a stellar start on Friday night.
In the Clorox Rising Stars game, in its first year under a new format, Team Barry – featuring a pair of Cavaliers – were crowned the event’s champs, with both contributing on both ends in the back-to-back victories.
(And for some local icing on the cake – a former Ohio State Buckeye hit the game-winning bucket in Team Barry’s initial win just hours after Cleveland Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett put on a dunk-fest in the Ruffles Celebrity Game at the Wolstein Center.)
Rookie Evan Mobley and sophomore Isaac Okoro were both rock-solid in the Rookie Challenge, which went to a format in which teams tried to reach a target score – the opening round up to 50, the championship round to 25.
"I think it was a great experience, I just came out here trying to have fun,” said Mobley, who leads his rookie class in field goal percentage, blocks and rebounding. “It was just fun coming out here and showing out in front of the home crowd.”
In the first game of the night, Team Worthy had a two-possession lead, but struggled to close the deal at the stripe, with Jalen Suggs missing a free throw to open the door. On the other end, Memphis’ Desmond Bane drilled two free throws to complete the comeback – setting up the showdown against Team Barry and the young Cavalier duo.
In the matchup between Team Barry and Team Isaiah, Mobley scored eight of his squad’s first 12 points – all on dunks – and proceeded to tie teammate Cade Cunningham with a game-high 13 points and led both teams with eight rebounds. Isaac Okoro chipped in with six points of his own.
That game also came down the final possession – with former Buckeye and current Rockets sophomore Jae’Sean Tate scoring on a diving layup to seal the 50-48 victory.
In the title game, Team Barry trailed 20-18 before scoring the game’s final five points for the win – with Orlando’s Franz Wagner drilling a free throw to ice the affair, 25-20.
”Once we saw our team, we knew we were going to win this thing,” smiled Okoro afterwards. “We had the best build overall as a team, so we knew if we locked in we’d win the game.”
Detroit’s Cunningham – the top pick in this past summer’s Draft – was named the MVP of the Challenge – combining for 18 points and nine assists in both contests.
In the championship game, Mobley finished with five points, three boards an assist and a blocked shot while Okoro went scoreless with a pair of helpers in the win.
Mobley will be back in action on Saturday night – taking part in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge alongside teammates Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen – each of whom will also suit up for the Eastern Conference All-Star squad on Sunday night and both seated courtside on Friday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Isaac Okoro slams one down during the NBA Rising Star game.