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Passed Over For Rising Stars Challenge, McLemore Looks To Build Brand Through Dunk Contest

Ben McLemore wasn’t asked to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge at this year’s All-Star weekend, but will still be in New Orleans as part of the Slam Dunk Contest.

McLemore, who is averaging 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game in his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings, will team up with Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes as part of the contest’s new format. They will face off against the East, who will be represented by Paul George, Terrence Ross and John Wall.

"I'm still thinking. I’m still trying to figure out different things I want to do,” McLemore said when asked what he might have up his sleeve. "I want to go out there and just perform.”

The only preview McLemore would reveal was that he plans to put together an aerial display rather than a series of power dunks.

"A little bit of [aerodynamic and high leaping]. I’m definitely a high flyer," he said. "I can get high. I just want to show my athleticism out there on the floor and bring a lot of excitement."

The new format brings a different feel to the event as there won’t be a traditional champion, but rather a winning team. An informal champion will be tabbed via fan vote. Things will kick off with a "freestyle” round, featuring 90 seconds of each conference dunking as much as they want. Many are expecting coordination among the players.

“We'll see once I get to New Orleans, what Dame and Harrison are looking to do,” McLemore said about putting together a group routine. "We will probably coordinate with each other and win it. We’ll represent for our team.”

McLemore is looking to raise his profile in New Orleans, especially since the Dunk Contest garners more attention than the Rising Stars Challenge.

"This is a great opportunity for me to build my brand, to go out there for All-Star weekend,” he said. "I’ve just been trying to do what’s best to represent me and the Sacramento Kings.”

It has been a few years since the St. Louis native participated in this type of event. He last won a dunk contest during an exhibition in Hawaii while at Oak Hill Academy. We won’t see a mano-a-mano final round this year, but the lack of an individual award doesn’t bother McLemore.

"It's a team thing, he said. "The fans will vote for who had the best dunk of the night, but I’ll still try to go out there and bring a lot of excitement. I’ll be looking for oohhs and aahhs. You still want to be on the team that wins.

"It’s cool being able to say it’s something I experienced. Being selected for the dunk contest, I think, is even better. I’m happy for the opportunity I have right now.”

Via Andrew Perna/RealGM
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