The Rising Stars Challenge participants held a practice on Thursday evening at LIU Brooklyn. The Nets’ Mason Plumlee, Miwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo will be playing in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night and in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night. Here is what they had to say:
Mason Plumlee, Nets center:
- What’s the prospect as far as the contest?
PLUMLEE: The prospect? I think it will be fun. I think you got a good group. Oladipo is very athletic. So is Giannis. I think it’s a good group of guys.
Q. Do you have any message to the Japanese fans?
PLUMLEE: Thanks for the support. We love our fans all over the world. I hope to visit Japan some day. Maybe there will be an NBA game there someday, who knows.
Q. What is it like to be involved in this in front of your home crowd?
PLUMLEE: It’s a lot of fun. I’m very excited to be a part of the weekend in any capacity. But to play Friday night and then do the dunk contest Saturday is going to be special.
Q. What about the dunk competition that you’re most looking forward to?
PLUMLEE: Really what the other guys are going to do. It’s a competition, but I think there’s some great athletes. So I think it’s going to be one of the better dunk contests in recent years.
Q. I’m sure you don’t want to give away any secrets. Do you have anything planned you’re willing to tell the public?
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks forward:
- Have you already planned your summer? Will you be playing on the national team?
ANTETOKOUNMPO: I’m not qualified to say.
Q. Euro basketball?
Q. How do you like the nickname, “the Greek Freak”? And do you think it represents you well as a player?
ANTETOKOUNMPO: I like it. It’s the nickname that is going for me. And it’s really cool. I’m Greek, and I’m a freak of nature, too. So it’s kind of cool.
Q. Can you say the NBA life has been good to you so far?
ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah. Yeah, I love the NBA life. Summer League last year. Tried to adjust. It’s great. I think I was born to do this.
Q. What was the most difficult thing to adjust to?
ANTETOKOUNMPO: The American culture. Because I was young, I lived all my life in Greece. The culture was the most difficult part.
Q. Can you describe Jason Kidd as a coach.
ANTETOKOUNMPO: Great coach. Really competitive. He’s got a great work ethic. And he just wants to win.
Q. Do you think it’s possible to come up with new dance that we haven’t seen before?
ANTETOKOUNMPO: I don’t think you guys have seen everything. I might try something new.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic guard:
OLADIPO: Better work, better lives. That’s the blood that goes with my veins. Yeah, I’m from Nigeria. I’m Nigerian.
Q. Have you visited Africa yet?
OLADIPO: No, I haven’t gotten a chance to. It’s kind of expensive for six people to go to Africa, but now that I have the money and I’m saving my money, I’m definitely going to get a chance to go there.
Q. If you had a message for the kids in Africa trying to get in sports in general, what would that message be?
OLADIPO: I think the biggest message from first‑hand experience is never let anybody tell you you can’t do anything. Through my life people have told me I would come up short. I probably would never do this. Never be a D‑1 college player, never play in the NBA. But at the end of the day, I just stayed in the gym and kept working on my game.
Never lose confidence in yourself. Never let anybody let your confidence waver. Just believe in yourself and believe in the gifts God gave you, and everything is possible.
Q. Two players of Nigerian descent in the dunk contest. What do you think about that?
OLADIPO: I think it’s big. It means we’re talented, too. We can represent them well and we’re going to represent them well.
Q. How does one prepare for the dunk contest?
OLADIPO: Just jump as high as you can.