Domantas Sabonis joined select company Thursday, becoming just the second Gonzaga alumnus to make an NBA All-Star roster.
Sabonis was selected as one of seven Eastern Conference reserves, earning his first All-Star nod in his fourth NBA season. Hall of Famer John Stockton played in 10 All-Star games, the last in 2000.
Sabonis is one of nine first-time All-Stars on the 24-player rosters. The 10 starters were announced last week. The game will be held Feb. 16 at the United Center in Chicago.
“This is a great honor personally, but more importantly a great honor for my teammates, my coaches and the entire Pacers’ franchise,” said Sabonis, the Pacers’ 14th All-Star selection. “This is a result of being a team in the truest sense of the word and our record reflects that. I look forward to representing the Pacers, Indianapolis and Indiana at All-Star weekend.”
Sabonis is averaging 18 points, 12.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists, all career highs. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only other player this season averaging at least 18 points and 12 boards. Sabonis has 37 double-doubles, third in the league. He posted the first two triple-doubles of his career in the last two weeks.
Sabonis played two seasons for the Zags, coming off the bench as a freshman behind Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski in 2015. He replaced Karnowski, who underwent season-ending back surgery after playing in five games, in the starting lineup in 2016 and averaged 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds. Sabonis was one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, presented to the nation’s top center.
Sabonis is another in a long line of international standouts recruited to Gonzaga by assistant coach Tommy Lloyd. Sabonis’ father, Arvydas, was one of the best international players of all time and was inducted into the Naismith and FIBA Hall of Fame.
Lloyd began recruiting Sabonis after noticing the Lithuanian putting up big numbers in European U16 championships. Lloyd watched Sabonis compete at the U17 and U18 championships.
“The effort, the rebounding, the strength, the great left hand,” Lloyd said in Sabonis’ sophomore season at Gonzaga. “It was all there.”
So was Sabonis’ passion for the game. Off the court, he was quiet and loved to joke around. On the court, he was all business, often punctuating dunks with double-arm flexes.
Sabonis was drafted 11th overall by Orlando, which traded the 6-foot-11 forward to Oklahoma City. Sabonis played one season with the Thunder before being dealt to the Pacers, which has proven to be a better fit for his versatile skill set. He’s averaged in double figures all three seasons.
Sabonis played in the Rising Stars Challenge for first- and second-year players during All-Star weekend in 2017 and 2018.
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