Jabari Smith Jr. to rep Rockets at NBA Rising Stars; Cam Whitmore, Amen Thompson left out

On Tuesday, the NBA announced the 28 players who have earned spots to compete in the 2024 Panini Rising Stars challenge. The event will take place on Friday, Feb. 16, at Indianapolis’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse as an official part of the league’s 2024 All-Star Weekend.

The annual showcase of young talent, featuring a mini-tournament with four teams and three games, airs live at 8 p.m. Central on TNT.

In selecting players for the Rising Stars event, each NBA team submitted one ballot per coaching staff.  Each coaching staff selected four frontcourt players, four guards, and two additional players at either position, in order of preference, for rookies and sophomores.  Coaches were not permitted to vote for any player on their team.

The NBA participants were determined by the total points each player received from the ballots.  Points were awarded based on where a player was ranked on each ballot.  The player pool includes one more rookie than sophomore based on total points received.

For the Houston Rockets, Jabari Smith Jr. is the lone representative. Fellow second-year forward Tari Eason likely would have joined Smith, but he’s been out due to a leg injury for the past month and has missed approximately half of Houston’s 2023-24 season to date.

A 6-foot-11, 220-pound forward, Smith is averaging 13.8 points (47.8% FG, 38.3% on 3-pointers) and 8.7 rebounds per game this season. He’s also one of Houston’s most valuable defensive players. Smith and Eason were both on the rookie Rising Stars roster last season, while Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun were in the sophomore group.

As for 2023-24, rookies Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson have played very well in recent games, but neither was among the 11 rookies selected. Thompson missed most of Houston’s first six weeks of the season with an ankle injury, while Whitmore didn’t consistently join Houston’s rotation until approximately mid-January.

Thus, their surge may have come a bit too late for it to be properly accounted for in voting conducted by opposing coaches.

Unlike the previous two seasons, the 2023-24 Rockets (22-24) are much more competitive, which has also made it more difficult for rookies to earn consistent playing time to put up gaudy statistics.

Read on for the full rosters and more details on the format, as well as key numbers on Smith’s sophomore season from the Rockets.

Rookies roster, 2024 Panini Rising Stars

  • Bilal Coulibaly (Guard | Washington Wizards)

  • Keyonte George (Guard | Utah Jazz)

  • Jordan Hawkins (Guard | New Orleans Pelicans)

  • Scoot Henderson (Guard | Portland Trail Blazers)

  • Chet Holmgren (Frontcourt | Oklahoma City Thunder)

  • Jaime Jaquez. Jr. (Frontcourt | Miami Heat)

  • Dereck Lively II (Frontcourt | Dallas Mavericks)

  • Brandon Miller (Frontcourt | Charlotte Hornets)

  • Brandin Podziemski (Guard | Golden State Warriors)

  • Cason Wallace (Guard | Oklahoma City Thunder)

  • Victor Wembanyama (Frontcourt | San Antonio Sours)

Sophomores roster, 2024 Panini Rising Stars

  • Paolo Banchero (Frontcourt | Orlando Magic)

  • Dyson Daniels (Guard | New Orleans Pelicans)

  • Jalen Duren (Frontcourt | Detroit Pistons)

  • Jaden Ivey (Guard | Detroit Pistons)

  • Walker Kessler (Frontcourt | Utah Jazz)

  • Bennedict Mathurin (Guard | Indiana Pacers)

  • Keegan Murray (Frontcourt | Sacramento Kings)

  • Shaedon Sharpe (Guard | Portland Trail Blazers)

  • Jabari Smith Jr. (Frontcourt | Houston Rockets)

  • Jalen Williams (Frontcourt | Oklahoma City Thunder)

NBA G League roster, 2024 Panini Rising Stars

  • Izan Almansa (Frontcourt | G League Ignite)

  • Matas Buzelis (Frontcourt | G League Ignite)

  • Ron Holland (Frontcourt | G League Ignite)

  • Mac McClung (Guard | Osceola Magic)

  • Tyler Smith (Frontcourt | G League Ignite)

  • Oscar Tshiebwe (Frontcourt | Indiana Mad Ants)*

  • Alondes Williams (Guard | Sioux Falls Skyforce)

*Two-Way Player

Drafting the four teams


The 21 NBA players, selected by NBA assistant coaches, will be drafted onto three seven-player teams.  The seven NBA G League players, selected by the league office, will comprise the fourth team.

Six-time NBA All-Star and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Pau Gasol will return as one of the four honorary head coaches after leading his team to the Rising Stars championship last year. Joining Gasol as honorary head coaches are Indiana Fever legend and 10-time WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings, as well as former Indiana Pacers standouts Jalen Rose and Detlef Schrempf.

Catchings, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, led the Fever to the 2012 WNBA championship, while Rose helped the Pacers reach the 2000 NBA Finals and was the Kia NBA Most Improved Player that season. Schrempf, a three-time NBA All-Star, won back-to-back Kia NBA Sixth Man Awards with the Pacers in the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons.

Gasol (Team Pau), Catchings (Team Tamika), and Rose (Team Jalen) will select their teams through the Rising Stars draft, which will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. Central and stream live on the NBA App.  Schrempf (Team Detlef) will coach the team of NBA G League players.

Format of games


All three games in Panini Rising Stars will be played to a final target score, meaning each game will end with a made basket or a made free throw instead of with the clock running out. The semifinal games will be played to a final target score of 40, while the championship game will be played to 25.

Team A will face Team B in the first semifinal (Game 1), and Team C will play Team D in the second semifinal (Game 2). The winner of Game 1 will meet the winner of Game 2 in the championship (Game 3). The semifinal matchups will be announced at a later date.

Jabari Smith Jr.’s 2023-24 statistical highlights

From Rockets PR:

Smith has started all 41 of his games played this season while averaging 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He joins Jalen Duren and Victor Wembanyama as the only first- or second-year players averaging at least 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds this season.

Among sophomores this season, Smith ranks eighth in scoring, third in rebounding, and third in total 3-pointers made. He is shooting 47.8% from the floor and 38.3% from 3-point range this season after shooting 40.8% as a rookie in 2022-23, including 30.7% on 3-pointers.

Smith is the first player in NBA history to have reached his totals of points, rebounds, blocks, and 3-pointers made through the first 120 games played of a career. He will be 20 years old for the duration of the season.

[lawrence-related id=119604,118984]

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire