EYES ON YOU, KID: NCAA 94 Jrs. players to watch

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Sep 17, 2018 06:52 PM
EYES ON YOU, KID: NCAA 94 Jrs. players to watch
Inand Fornilos (green jersey) and Clint Escamis (yellow jersey) are the brightest stars in the NCAA 94 Juniors

The first round of the NCAA 94 Juniors Basketball Tournament is over and done with.

And with the second round already underway, we’re getting even more glimpses of the future of Philippine basketball courtesy of these players:

CLINT ESCAMIS – Mapua High School

(yellow jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 23.3 points, 46.9 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.7 steals

Clint Escamis has spent his first two seasons under the leadership of the likes of Sherwin Concepcion, Mike Enriquez, Warren Bonifacio, and Will Gozum.

Now in his third and last season in Mapua, he is proving that he is no slouch as a leader himself.

The league’s top scorer and second-best steal-getter has carried the Red Robins right back up there in the standings – and they are the only team to have downed all f the traditional powerhouses in College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills, Arellano High School, and San Beda High School.

This version of Mapua may not be as star-studded as it was in the last four years, but they may just have the brightest star in all of the league in their 6-foot-1 swingman.

INAND FORNILOS – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills

(green jersey defending white jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.4 points, 51.8 percent shooting, 10.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.0 assist

On a team as fully loaded as CSB-LSGH, there has to be a workhorse – and Inand Fornilos has been just that and more.

Just like he did in their championship campaign last season, he has been a force to reckon with on both ends of the floor for the league-leading Junior Blazers.

The rebounds and defense have always been second nature for Fornilos, but this season, he has become better on offense. In fact, he already has a couple of 20-point games to his name – not bad for an undersized big man at 6-foot-2.

Without a doubt, the graduating forward is doing all he can to make his former team regret ever letting him go.

JOHN AMORES – Jose Rizal High School

(blue jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 20.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steal

And all of that is because of John Amores, the second-best scorer in all of the league and the undisputed main man of the daring Light Bombers – the only team that will be sweeping contending Mapua in the elimination round.

JRU’s rise from the bottom half of the standings to the top four is nothing short of spectacular and that improvement is best personified by Amores who went from role player a year ago to go-to-guy this season.

Give the Most Improved Award to the kid already because he’s ready and raring to take much more than that.

JOEL CAGULANGAN – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills

(green jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals

For the high standards he set a year ago, this season has been a quiet one for Joel Cagulangan.

With the likes of Escamis and Amores flying high and CSB-LSGH teammates Fornilos and RC Calimag grabbing more headlines than him, last year’s Finals MVP has been under the radar.

Quietly, however, he is actually the Junior Blazers’ leading scorer and the NCAA’s best assistman and fourth-best steal-getter.

Yes, that’s just how the 5-foot-9 do-it-all dynamo rolls, making an impact even if everybody else doesn’t feel it. Just don’t forget that he could also choose to make everybody feel his impact, okay?

AARON FERMIN – Arellano High School

(grey jersey, #18)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.2 points, 53.5 percent shooting, 17.6 rebounds, 1.0 block

If not for Arellano’s struggles last season, Aaron Fermin would have been MVP.

If not for the Braves’ struggle in the ongoing season, Fermin would have been the league’s most tantalizing talent.

Standing at 6-foot-5, graced with a wide frame, having timing on lock, and blessed with a non-stop motor, the graduating big man has all the tools to be a game-changer on both ends of the floor.

Indeed, he had a stretch of games of posting a 15-point, 20-rebound double-double. Now, if only he could lift Arellano to much-needed wins and back onto a playoff push.

DAN ARCHES – Mapua High School

(yellow jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals

Mapua has long been defined by its talented big men, but now, it’s the guys at the wings who have taken center stage.

Escamis has been their main man, but he also has a more than capable running mate in Dan Arches.

All Escamis could do, Arches could do as well, only without the same sort of consistency. But hey, this is the first time he has been getting time with in his two years as a Red Robins so there’s nothing that all those reps couldn’t improve.

And oh, he also has one thing going for him – a fine floater that he could bust out at any time that somehow, some way, has become automatic.

JOSHUA DAVID – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills

(green jersey, with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals

Imagine the dynamic between Escamis and Arches, and then translate that onto Cagulangan and his own partner-in-crime in Joshua David.

Like Cagulangan, David could stuff the stat sheet. Like Cagulangan, David could do whatever CSB-LSGH needs for a win.

The only difference is that unlike Cagulangan, David already has the size at 6-feet and a big body to make the same sort of noise in the Seniors.

Of course, Cagulangan’s clutch genes are also on another level, but who knows? Maybe David is just waiting on the wings to seize those moments for himself?

MILO JANAO AND KEAN BACLAAN – San Sebastian College-Recoletos

JANAO’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist

(yellow jersey with ball in first photo)

BACLAAN’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 15.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals

(yellow jersey with ball in second photo)

It looks like San Sebastian College-Recoletos still wouldn’t be able to get over the hump this year, but the good news is that they remain on the right track.

The even better news is that Milo Janao and Kean Baclaan, the two paving the way for them, are here to stay.

That backcourt, by themselves, has fueled the Staglets to four wins – and still in the thick of things.

While a long-awaited, much-wanted playoff berth is a long shot this year, perhaps it wouldn’t be so when both Janao and Baclaan get a year older and a year more determined to continue doing it all to win.

MAC GUADANA AND JOHN BARBA – Lyceum of the Philippines University

GUADANA’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists

(grey jersey with ball in first photo)

BARBA’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 17.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals

(grey jersey with ball in second photo)

Batang Gilas member Mac Guadana has become the NCAA’s constant – a 6-foot guard who could score at will while also doing his part in rebounding and playmaking.

With him showing the way, Lyceum of the Philippines University has proven to be a far from easy out for three seasons now.

They are still a ways away from legitimate contention, but the Junior Pirates have reason to believe that would be sooner than later as teaming up with Guadana is John Barba, a 6-foot-2 forward who just has a knack for willing his way to good looks inside.

With those two, the boys from Cavite have two of the top six scorers in all of the league. Now, they just have to find the other pieces of the puzzle for their first-ever playoff berth.

ROM JUNSAY – Arellano High School

(grey jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals

Rom Junsay was one of the biggest keys to Mapua’s first-ever championship.

That was two years ago, though, and since then, the 5-foot-6 has transferred to Arellano and is now only playing his first and last season there.

Nonetheless, in just his first game in blue and grey, he wasted no time in reminding everybody about his talents, dropping a career-high 34 points.

He and the Braves have trailed off from there, but just as Arellano is a sleeping giant no team wants to wake, Junsay is an active volcano just waiting for the perfect time to erupt.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jonnel Policarpio – Mapua High School

RC Calimag – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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