Former Trojans highlight Rookie Challenge

The Rookie Challenge has long been a place to see the up-and-coming stars of the NBA shine, but very rarely has the Sophomore vs. Rookie spectacle featured any former Trojans.

This year, however, three different ex-USC basketball players will be featured in the Challenge, with one even contributing to the halftime entertainment.

The annual event – held during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend – pits first-year NBA rookies against second-year sophomores. This year, the game will feature one former Trojan on both teams.

Last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up, Memphis Grizzlies point guard O.J. Mayo, is among the more obvious selections for the sophomore squad, which also features other successful young players like the Bulls’ Derrick Rose, the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love and the Nets’ Brook Lopez.

Suiting up for the rookies is Bulls’ forward and former Trojan Taj Gibson, who was picked 26th overall in last year’s draft and has been a pleasant surprise for the Chicago team, where he has made his way onto the starting roster for the Bulls for a large portion of the season.

During halftime of the usually competitive game between the two young squads a new event will premiere, and will feature the third former Trojan to be featured during the day.

DeMar DeRozan will compete in the new “Dunk-In” against the Clippers’ Eric Gordon. The Toronto Raptor rookie starter DeRozan was not selected to play on the rookie team, but if he beats Gordon during halftime, he will receive a berth in the actual Dunk Contest to be held on February 13th.

DeRozan would face the Knicks’ Nate Robinson, the Bobcat’s Gerald Wallace and the Lakers’ Shannon Brown if he makes the glitzy Dunk Contest.