#GameGoals: NCAA stars name their favorite NBA players
San Beda Red Lions gunner AC Soberano idolizes Stephen Curry (no surprise there!). Check out the #GameGoals of nine other NCAA standouts.
With the NCAA Season 92 basketball tournament over, the ten teams are back to their usual routine: training, team vacations, and trading NBA predictions. Also: copious amounts of NBA 2K in their dorm rooms.
Can you guess the players that inspire these NCAA stars’ games?
AC Soberano (San Beda Red Lions) — Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry (GSW)
It all began with MJ for the champion gunner. “Since bata pa ako, pinapanood ko na siya and sinasabi ko sa sarili ko na magiging katulad niya din ako,” says the sophomore. “Lagi kong pinapanood mga videos niya para ma-inspire ako before the game, kaya naha-hype ako maglaro minsan.”
But when it comes to whom Soberano patterns his game after, the NCAA’s most efficient three-point shooter looks to Stephen Curry’s incredible long-range baskets. “Kasi hindi ko naman kayang gayahin si MJ, sana makuha ko shooting ni Steph,” laughs Soberano. (Spoiler: It’s working.)
Kent Salado (Arellano Chiefs) — Kyrie Irving (CLE), Russell Westbrook (OKC)
“Sobrang galing niya mag-dribble at umatake,” says Salado of his favorite guard in the NBA, Kyrie Irving. He’s been a fan since the 2012-13 season—Irving’s second year, and his first All-Star season—and became an even bigger fan when LeBron James came back to Cleveland and formed the Big Three with Kevin Love.
Salado’s other favorite is Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The athletic point guard likes to go after transition baskets, as do the Arellano Chiefs. “Sobrang bilis kung maglaro,” gushes Salado.
Allwell Oraeme (Mapua Cardinals) — Carmelo Anthony (NYK), Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett
The back-to-back MVP is one high achiever, and so is his favorite player Carmelo Anthony. “I love his post-up and offensive game,” says Oraeme of the nine-time NBA All-Star player and a record four-time Team USA athlete.
There’s a pattern to Oraeme’s favorites: Melo, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett. All are record-breakers, and all are considered high-functioning, all-business, crazy people. “I would say that’s a factor,” says Oraeme. “[I like] guys who are willing to do everything to win.”
Rey Nambatac (Letran Knights) — James Harden (HOU)
Nambatac’s been a fan of Harden and his offensive footwork since he was with OKC. “Nag-start siya from a role player and sixth man player to a superstar player,” he explains, singling out Harden’s euro step as his favorite move.
Nambatac himself began his career as a role player, focused on defense, before evolving into the Knights’ leading scorer this past season. Along the way, he’s played through a litany of injuries to become a champion in NCAA Season 91. “Lahat ng challenges na dumating [kay Harden], kinaya niya and look at him now, superstar na siya sa Rockets kasi nagtiyaga siya.”
Bright Akhuetie (Perpetual Altas) — LeBron James (CLE)
“He’s a do-it-all kind of guy,” says Akhuetie, who models his fearless game after King James’ hyper-competitive mentality.
Any predictions for this season?
“The Cavs will win it again if they are all healthy. I feel GSW are going to come out stronger than before because of their new recruitment and other teams are going to step it up too, you know?” muses the Altas’ big man. “But I’m locked down with the Cavs.”
RK Ilagan (San Sebastian Golden Stags) — Stephen Curry (GSW), Steve Nash
Ilagan made a name for himself with his hot three-point shooting, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he models his game after the Golden State Warriors’ Curry. What most don’t know, though, is that his all-time idol is Steve Nash. “Pareho sila, grabe ‘yung shooting at basketball IQ,” shares Ilagan.
Paolo Pontejos (JRU Heavy Bombers) — LeBron James (CLE)
The Heavy Bombers’ veteran guard lists King James as his all-time favorite. “Syempre all-around player si LeBron. He can carry teams hanggang Finals kasi super talented siya,” says Pontejos. James typifies the kind of responsibility that Pontejos shouldered with the Heavy Bombers, a defensive team that concentrated their offense around his and Teytey Teodoro’s scoring.
James also reflects Pontejos’ ambitions: “He’s unstoppable.”
Francis Munsayac (EAC Generals) — Kobe Bryant, Devin Booker (PHO)
Ask Munsayac about his favorite from the current season and he’ll break the rules with an all-caps reply: “KOBE FOR LIFE!!!!” You can thank his father and grandfather, both Lakers fans, for raising a young Munsayac on a diet of Kobe highlights.
When pressed though, Munsayac admits his current favorite is Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. “Underrated siya hindi gaya ng ibang superstars,” he says. “Gusto ko siya kasi simple lang at sobrang shooter.”
Mike Harry Nzeusseu (LPU Pirates) — LeBron James (CLE)
The Pirates’ explosive big man has an extensive collection of Jordans, but when it comes to his favorite player, there’s only one guy in mind: “It has to be Lebron,” says Nzeusseu. The Cameroonian plays well on either end of the court, lifting the Pirates out of obscurity and into contention, and says he’s inspired by LBJ’s energy, court vision, and the ability to carry a team to success.
Fonsy Saavedra (CSB Blazers) — Carmelo Anthony (NYK)
The Blazers’ veteran player has been following Melo’s career ever since he guided the Syracuse Orangemen to their first-ever NCAA Div. I title in 2003. “That’s when I started watching him, and I liked his cornrows when he was playing in Denver,” Saavedra says with a laugh.
“He’s the most versatile offensive player in the NBA. He can do everything offensively and he’s fun to watch,” adds Saavedra, who can relate to his favorite player’s poker face while the rest of Team USA sang “A Thousand Miles” prior to the Rio Olympics. “My guys are so young and hyper! After training and on bus rides, they dance and joke around and I’m just sitting there observing.”