Sports Journalism Blog

By Kondwani Mzumara | @kondwamz

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – Team Jalen won the 2024 NBA Rising Stars Challenge at Gainbridge Fieldhouse Friday night, defeating Team Detlef 26-13 in the championship game. Team Jalen made 67% of its shots with an ability to get to the rim with alley-oops and dunks that helped seize the momentum.

Dereck Lively II of the Dallas Mavericks scored six points, while Jalen Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jordan Hawkins of the New Orleans Pelicans each scored five. Bennedict Mathurin of the Indiana Pacers, who had scored 18 points in Team Jalen’s come-from-behind victory over Team Tamika to reach the final, was Most Valuable Player.

The tournament was decided after three games with four teams competing for a spot in the final. The first two games were set to a target score of 40 points while the final game was set to a target score of 25.

After missing two free throws in the first game that could have won the game for Team Jalen, Mathurin scored the winning basket on the following possession to reach the target score. It came on a contested shot defended by guard Scoot Henderson of the Portland Trailblazers. The game became tightly contested when Mathurin was seen getting into some verbal back and forth with Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey, which Mathurin called “competing, talking crap, just having fun.”

In the final, Mathurin made a spinning, behind-the-back pass to center Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz for a basket. Team Jalen jumped out to a 14-6 lead on the way to reaching the 25-point target score for the final game.

Team Detlef, with a roster of players from the G League, reached the final with a 41-36 victory over Team Pau, which was led by Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs. Wembanyama, the No. 1 choice in the 2024 NBA draft, scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, but committed five turnovers. Mac McClung of the Osceola Magic and Alondes Williams of the Sioux Falls Skyforce combined for 23 points.

Team Detlef was guided by former Pacer Detlef Schrempf, while Team Pau was led by former Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol.

McClung was fouled on a 3-point shot that could have won the game for Team Detlef. But McClung missed the second free throw, which left his team one point away from victory. McClung had a potential winning layup blocked by Wembanyama. Matas Buzelis of G League Ignite, who scored seven points, then scored the winning basket to win on a contested jumper over Brandon Miller of the Charlotte Hornets to advance Team Detlef to the finals.

The standout player of the entire night in Indiana was Mathurin who was playing in his home team’s arena and heard chants of “MVP” from the crowd of 15,289.

“It was fun to receive those chants,” Mathurin said. “One day I want to be MVP, so it was great to have that feeling pretty early in my career.”

At the end of the night, Mathurin’s teammates poured bottled water over his head. He reveled in the experience of playing the tournament in Indianapolis.

“…It’s also my city, I have to make sure I bring it home,” he said. “So that was the main thing for me.”