Young and Hungry Hoopers: Recapping Panini Rising Stars 2024

February 17, 2024

Panini Rising Stars started with a slam. Technically, it started with a steal, then a slam. In the opening match, Detroit’s Jalen Duren swiped the ball and took it all the way to score with a rim-rattler.

From there, a thrilling night of hoops was underway in Indy. Sponsored by Panini America, the Rising Stars contest featured four teams, made up of rookies, sophomores and NBA G League stars, competing in a three-game tournament, with a target score instead of a clock.

Duren got the night started with the aforementioned jam in the first semifinal, and his squad got out to a 9-0 lead. That was Team Tamika, which was captained by WNBA legend Tamika Catchings. Unfortunately, Catchings and Duren were not able to capitalize on that early advantage.

Led by 18 points from Pacers sophomore Bennedict Mathurin, as well as a string of highlights from Chet Holmgren and Dereck Lively II, Team Jalen (Rose) came back to take a 40-35 victory.

The opening game was interesting throughout, reaching a fever pitch in the home stretch when Mathurin and Pistons guard Jaden Ivey got tangled up in a friendly, yet feisty, back-and-forth. Who says these guys don’t try at Rising Stars?

In the other semifinal, Team Detlef took on Team Pau. Schrempf’s squad, which was made up of NBA G Leaguers, pushed the pace early and got out to a 25-13 lead over Gasol’s group. Mac McClung and Alondes Williams powered that strong start.

After Team Pau came back to make it a game, a pair of free throws from McClung got Team Detlef to 39 points, just an inch away from the target score of 40. Once again, Team Pau battled back and a layup from Jabari Smith Jr. moved the score to 39-36.

Finally, Team Detlef closed things out with a game-winning turnaround from Matas Buzelis, in nearly the same spot where Mathurin ended the prior contest. McClung led all scorers with 12 points, Williams chipped in 11, and Oscar Tshiebwe impressed with eight rebounds — four on each end.

Those stars headed into the championship round tilt vs. Team Jalen, where the pressure was turned up and the target score was lowered to 25.

The youngsters felt those increased stakes and locked in for the final. Defense tightened up and hustle increased. After a back-and-forth start, Team Jalen pulled away and took the title with a long-distance winner from Oklahoma City star Jalen Williams.

Mathurin scored four points in the final, which, combined with his 18 from the semifinal, made him the easy choice for the night’s MVP award. The Indiana crowd loved seeing their hometown talent grab the top honors of Panini Rising Stars, which was presented by another rising star: Panini America CEO Mark Warsop.

As a prelude to All-Star Weekend, Panini Rising Stars was a smash success. All three contests were competitive and put fans in the mood for the Dunk Contest, 3-Point Shootout, All-Star Game plus all the other events the weekend has to offer.

As for the youngsters? The future has never been brighter. They’ll be making plays and appearing on sought-after trading cards for years to come.

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