Salem Capitals point guard Allen Billinger Jr. will be joining 23 other TBL players at the 2023 All-Star game this weekend in Lehigh Valley, Penn.
“Humbling for sure,” Billinger said. “I put in a lot of time in the offseason to better myself for the team. Couldn’t do it without my teammates, coaching staff, Jason Conrad for giving me the opportunity. I’m excited to see what it’s like out there. Kind of surreal.”
While he used humbling and surreal to describe it, perhaps he could have used surprising or unbelievable, as Billinger didn’t know it was real when first told he made the All-Star game.
Prior to Saturday’s game at Vancouver, a member of the Volcanoes staff congratulated Billinger on the honor. Capitals team owner Jason Conrad had planned on waiting until after the game to give Billinger the good news.
But luckily for Conrad, he still got to deliver it.
“I really thought somebody told me I just got one vote,” Billinger siad. “I was like ‘That’s cool, I appreciate the recognition.’ After the game Conrad told me it was official and I was actually an All-Star.”
Billinger leads the Capitals in points (21.3) and assists (5.5) per game. His 47% shooting from the floor is second on the team, and 80.6% from the free throw line is third.
All of those numbers are up from last season, Billinger’s TBL debut.
“It shows you he’s one of the premier guards in this league,” Capitals head coach Kevin Johnson Jr. said. “He’s able to dish the ball, he’s able to score. I give him the keys to do what he does. I think he deserves to be there. He puts in the effort, he puts in the work and I watched the growth from last year to this year. He definitely deserves to be there.”
And being there is no small accomplishment.
With 24 All-Star roster spots and 49 teams in the TBL, less than half the teams in the league will be represented in Lehigh Valley. And the opportunity to represent Salem and the Capitals is not lost on Billinger.
“That’s really what it’s about,” Billinger said. “Salem Capitals gave me the opportunity to play basketball at the next level, so any time I can represent them, I’m definitely going to show out for that. Represent and bring out all my Salem Capitals gear out there.”
Billinger will be a part of Team Blake, named after the 11-year old CEO of the JRTBL. Joining Billinger on Team Blake are three other players from the West division, Seattle’s Michael Carter III, Long Beach’s Mark Carter and Bakersfield’s Christopher Turner. Armani Chaney of New Foundland, who the Capitals played to start the season, is also on Team Blake.
That means there are a lot of faces at the All-Star game that Billinger won’t have seen in the TBL yet. Though he does say he’s familiar with some of the talent in the league.
“I know there’s a lot of ball players on the East coast, midwest, that’s where I’m from,” Billinger said. “I’m excited to see some of the guys who I knew before. I’m excited to showcase my skills too, represent Salem Capitals”
The All-Star game will take place on Sunday, April 9. The night before, at All-Star Saturday, the league will hold dunk, 3-point and hotshot contests.