There’s no debating that Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan has been playing some of the best basketball of his career lately.
“He’s playing great right now,” Spurs guard Devin Vassell said last week. “I love when he is aggressive. He is over here rebounding, getting double-doubles, locking up the best players. He is playing free and playing confident. When he plays like that, he is scary.”
The NBA on Thursday underlined Vassell’s comments by announcing that Sochan will replace injured Portland Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe on Team Jalen in the 2024 Rising Stars tournament.
The annual showcase of premier young talent at All-Star Weekend is set for Feb. 16 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. TNT’s broadcast of the event is set to start at 8 p.m.
Sochan will play in the Rising Stars tournament for the second straight season after making his debut in the event as a rookie last year. He joins a team coached by former Indiana Pacers star Jalen Rose that includes Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin, Dallas’ Dereck Lively II, New Orleans’ Jordan Hawkins and Utah’s Walker Kessler.
The Rising Stars event also features Spurs rookie star Victor Wembanyama, who is set to play for a team coached by Hall of Famer Pau Gasol, the former Los Angeles Lakers star and two-time NBA champion who played played two and a half seasons with the Spurs late in his career.
Sochan entered Thursday’s game at Orlando averaging 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. The Baylor-ex has recorded a double-double in three of his last seven games, including 31 points and 14 rebounds against the Trail Blazers on Jan. 26.
Eyebrows were raised among Spurs fans and in the club’s locker room when the league initially left Sochan off the Rising Stars roster.
“I don’t know who chooses these things or what the criteria are or anything like that, but he’s been great for us and he’s been a two-way player, which are very few and far between in this league,” Spurs coach Popovich said recently. “He’s played well at the defensive end, the offensive end. He’s really grown. Nobody would believe he would shoot the three the way he is shooting it now, so I think he should be there.”
“Good question,” Sochan said when asked last week about the snub. “I feel like there are reasons I didn’t get invited, and there are reasons I should have. At the end of the day, it is what it is.”
Asked to elaborate, Sochan said, “At the start of the season, there were a lot of experiments, just doing what is best for the team. There are reasons why I shouldn’t have.”
The “experiment” Sochan referred to was Popovich playing him at point guard for much of the season, an assignment that was both physically and mentally demanding for him. In early December, Popovich moved Sochan back to the frontcourt and promoted Tre Jones from the bench to starting point guard, a job he held last season.
The Trail Blazers announced Tuesday that Sharpe would undergo corrective surgery to address a core muscle injury.
The Rising Stars event will feature select NBA rookies and sophomores and NBA G League players competing in a four-team mini-tournament with three games, each played to a target score.