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Ayton to play in Rising Stars Challenge game

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton. APFebruary 3, 2020Simba French0366Views

Bahamian center DeAndre Ayton will return to NBA All-Star Weekend festivities after the NBA announced on last Friday that he was selected to the Mountain Dew Ice Rising Stars roster that will play on Friday, February 14, 2020 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

This is the Phoenix Suns center’s second time playing in that game that features NBA rookies and sophomores.

With the high influx of talented international players in the NBA, the game evolved into Team USA against Team World in 2015.

Ayton will be on Team World along with reigning rookie of the year Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (Slovenia); New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada); New York Knicks guard/forward RJ Barrett (Canada); Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (Canada); Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada); Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (Japan) and center Moritz Wagner (Germany); Detroit Pistons guard/forward Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine); and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie (Nigeria).

Representing Team USA are Trae Young (Atlanta), Miles Bridges (Charlotte), Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago), Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte), Tyler Herro (Miami), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis), Ja Morant (Memphis), Kendrick Nunn (Miami), Eric Paschall

(Golden State), PJ Washington (Charlotte) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans).

Last year, Team USA snapped a two-year losing streak when they won 161-144. Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) with 35 points.

Ayton scored 15 points in that game and finished 7-for-12 from the field. The big man hauled in eight rebounds and dished out five assists in 23 minutes of play.

Ayton was in action yesterday for his Suns and had a double-double, scoring 20 points against the NBA’s best team, the Milwaukee Bucks. He shot 10-for-27 from the field in 30 minutes of play. He also had two assists, one block and one steal.

The sophomore is putting on a show this season in the 19 games he has played in. He is averaging a career-high 17.9 points per game and pulled down 11.7 rebounds per contest. They are both improvements from his 16.3 points a contest and a rookie-leading 10.3 boards a game a year ago. If he continues scoring and rebounding like he is, he will finish with a back-to-back season averaging a double-double.

Defensively, he is averaging 1.5 blocks per game, up from his 0.9 blocks per game.

There has also been an uptick in his minutes per game – 32.6 from last season’s 30.7.

His field goal percentage has taken a hit this season where he is shooting 52.2 percent – down from his 58.5 percent clip he shot at in his rookie season.

This season has seen him grab a career-high 21 rebounds at the historic Madison Square Garden, New York, against the New York Knicks last month.

Last week Tuesday, Ayton came close to eclipsing his career high of 33 points when he only needed 29 minutes to score 31 points. He was unstoppable, going 13-for-15 from the field and 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. He was one rebound shy of a double-double.

Ayton and his Suns will be back in action tonight when they battle the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York, USA at 7.30 p.m.

The 26th Rising Stars will pit 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year NBA players from around the world in the league’s annual showcase of premier young talent during NBA All-Star.

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