National U is king of recruiting in 2018

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Apr 20, 2018 07:45 PM
National U is king of recruiting in 2018
NU has, bar none, one of the biggest recruiting hauls in recent memory

It has been two years since National University last played in the UAAP Final Four.

And the Bulldogs, who only have one championship to show in the last 63 years, have no plans whatsoever for another prolonged playoff drought.

That is why the Sampaloc-based squad has gotten out and gotten its hands on one of the biggest recruiting hauls in recent history.

Head coach Jamike Jarin rode graduating players J-Jay Alejandro and Matt Salem in his first year on the job in 2017 and it was far from enough to get NU out of the bottom half of the standings.

Now, Jarin will trot out a more seasoned core of Issa Gaye, Enzo Joson, Chino Mosqueda, Jonas Tibayan, and Dave Wilson Yu.

And this time, they will be joined by several blue-chip recruits and a couple of prized transferees.

Of the 24 players recognized as the best of the best by the National Basketball Training Centre in 2018, 10 have played their last games in the Juniors.

Of those 10, three will be wearing the blue and gold.

Far Eastern University is the only other team to have more than one of those 10.

Add John Lloyd Clemente, who had long been the most college-ready high school talent but had yet to finish the K-12 program, and the Bulldogs have four of the 11 best incoming rookies in the Seniors.

Just in the overall top 10 of the 2018 NBTC 24, NU will be welcoming two in sixth-ranked Dave Ildefonso and eighth-ranked John Galinato. It can even be argued that, if he had played, Clemente would have been in the overall top 5.

No other team has more than one in the overall top 10.

That is why, hands-down, the Bulldogs are our 2018 Kings of Recruiting.

Clemente is college-ready as they come. Ildefonso is a prototype modern forward and a proven winner. Galinato is a big-time scorer.

Then, they also have 3-and-D specialist Migs Oczon and defensive enforcer Robert Minerva coming in.

That’s not even counting their transferees in Darrel Menina who will finally steady the ship at point guard as well as Shaun Ildefonso who will add even more depth at the wings.

UP’s lone out-of-high-school recruit is NCAA Juniors MVP Will Gozum who is ready to be their starting 4, but may also be counted on for a big boost off the bench.

What the Fighting Maroons lack in Juniors standouts, however, they make up for in players who have fulfilled their residency and are now eligible to play.

That means that Filipino-American David Murell, Filipino-Canadian Evyn Santiago, and former Adamson star Jaydee Tungcab will now make State U the deepest it has ever been.

And oh, Bright Akhuetie, already the best foreign player lined up without even playing a single game in the UAAP, is done with his residency. No big deal.

FEU never runs out of good guards and they have their latest ones in one-time UAAP Juniors champions L-Jay Gonzales and RJ Abarrientos.

Gonzales has been compared to Westbrook because of his explosiveness and ability to stuff the stat sheet while Abarrientos is no slouch either with his own all-around game.

They won’t take the league the storm just yet, but expect them to learn a lot from entrenched rotation players like Wendell Comboy, Axel Inigo, and CJ Parker.

UAAP defending champion Ateneo de Manila University has remained mostly intact for its title defense.

Still, they are welcoming with open arms SJ Belangel, long seen as the next great Blue Eagle point guard, as well as talented forwards in Filipino-Canadian Matthew Daves, Filipino-Kiwi Patrick Maagdenberg and former Blue Eaglets RV Berjay and Jason Credo.

Expectations are quite manageable for head coach Aldin Ayo in his first year in University of Sto. Tomas.

The multi-league champion coach has been tasked to rebuild the once-proud program and he has his first big building block in UAAP Juniors MVP CJ Cansino.

Cansino is the trademark Growling Tiger – long-limbed and versatile – and will have fellow freshmen Mike Enriquez, a former NCAA Juniors MVP and champion, and Joshua Marcos, himself an NCAA Juniors champion, to grow with.

Reigning NCAA titlist San Beda University will still go wherever Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon will take them.

However, the Red Lions are nothing but glad to have a couple of new true point guards in Filipino-Canadian James Canlas and former NCAA Juniors champion Evan Nelle. Don’t sleep on Carlo Abadeza either – after all, he was previously called by head coach Boyet Fernandez to be “the next Art Dela Cruz.”

Colegio de San Juan de Letran has no blue-chip recruits coming in.

What they have, though, are solid prospects fresh out of high school in glue guys EJ Agbong and Jason Celis.

Those two, and four players who were unable to find their niche in their former teams and are now even hungrier to prove themselves.

Bonbon Batiller is more than capable to replace now-graduated Rey Nambatac. JP Calvo now has an able backup in Fran Yu.

And the Knights finally have the size to match up with any foreign student-athlete with Gilas cadet Jeo Ambohot now flanked by Christian Fajarito and Larry Muyang.

These are the new faces to see for the other teams:



La Salle



San Sebastian



Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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