Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is continuing to pad his resume for Rookie of the Year candidacy. On Saturday night, he won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge by besting runner-up Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was the first time a rookie won the challenge since its inception in 2003. Lillard completed the course in a scant 29.8 seconds.
"I think the biggest thing for me was to try not to be too cool and speed through it," said Lillard.
The Skills Challenge consists of an obstacle course that tests a participant’s speed, dribbling, passing and shooting skills in a timed atmosphere. In addition to Lillard and Holiday, the other participants included last year’s winner San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin, Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague and Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight.
Lillard’s victory also secured a $25,000 scholarship from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston for 18-year-old Poppie Simmons of Galveston, Texas.
"I was honored to win this competition," said Lillard. "The bigger thing for me was the fact that I was able to get the scholarship money for him. I come from a tough situation. If it wasn't for sports, I probably wouldn't have been able to attend a college. It means a lot for me to be able to do that for him."
Lillard is receiving early endorsements from NBA prognosticators as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Lillard is currently averaging 18.3 points, 6.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 38.5 minutes per game.
Lillard scored a career-high 37 points on January 11 against the Golden State Warriors. He also hit 7-of-12 from 3-point land that evening.
In addition to his impressive stat line, Lillard has been lauded for his poise and unflappability in crucial moments of a game despite his rookie status.
The 6-foot-2 guard from Weber State was selected sixth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.