(photo credit: Joseph D. Robbins )
Omri Casspi received the ultimate recognition for the superb start to his NBA career on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old was named to play in the Rookie Challenge to be held in Dallas on February 12 during the NBA's All-Star weekend.
Casspi has exceeded all expectations since being selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 23rd pick of the draft and more than deserves to be among the nine players on the rookie team roster.
"This is an amazing feeling, I'm very happy," Casspi said. "The All-Star weekend is the top of world basketball and this will be the top of my career. This is a dream come true and a result of all my hard work."
Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, is averaging 12.2 points (47.5 FG percentage, 39.6 three-point percentage, 63.3 percentage), 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 27.4 minutes per game in 42 appearances, including 16 starts.
Despite the fact his numbers have taken a slight dip in the past couple of weeks, Casspi is still easily one of the best newcomers to the league.
The former Maccabi Tel Aviv forward is ranked third among rookies in three-point percentage, fourth in field goal percentage, fifth in scoring and tied for fifth in rebounding.
The participants in the Rookie Challenge, which will see the rookies face a team of sophomores, were selected by the NBA's assistant coaches, with each team submitting one ballot.
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Casspi's teammate, Tyreke Evans, the leading scorer among first-year players, lead the list of the 18 players chosen.
Joining Rose on the sophomore team are Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley, Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Gordon, Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Kevin Love, New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez, New York Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, and a pair of teammates from the Memphis Grizzlies - center Marc Gasol and guard O.J. Mayo.
As well as Casspi and Evans, the rookie team includes Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson, Detroit Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jonny Flynn, Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden, and San Antonio forward/center DeJuan Blair.
The head coaches for the rookie and sophomore teams will be the lead assistants from the 2010 NBA All-Star Game coaching staffs, which will be determined by the best record in each conference through games played January 31.
Sophomores hold an 8-2 advantage over the first-year players in the Rookie Challenge, which began its current format pitting the rookies against the sophomores in 2000.
The game will be played in two 20-minute halves.