NCAA 95: Coach Manu always knew Justine Sanchez will break out for Red Cubs

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Oct 01, 2019 07:05 PM
Coach Manu always knew Sanchez will break out for Red Cubs
(Photo by Josh Albelda)

Justine Sanchez is the far and away favorite for Most Improved Player in the NCAA 95 Juniors Basketball Tournament.

After an up-and-down first year backing up the likes of Batang Gilas member Josh Lazaro and veteran Jade Talampas, the 6-foot-4 forward has come out of his shell for league-leading San Beda High School.

Through 15 games, Sanchez has put up per game counts of 12.3 points on 51.9 percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds - with more than a few 20-point outbursts to his name.

This, after numbers of 6.9 points in 41 percent shooting and 6.8 rebounds a year ago.

Of course, the 18-year-old is just making the most out of his bigger role for the Red Cubs who are on the prowl for their first title since 2015. "Nagka-playing time lang po ako lalo. Mag-graduate na rin po ako kaya kailangan ko na mag-grow up," he shared.

Along with that bigger role, though, Sanchez says his head coach's full faith has been key in his breakout.

After all, the long-limbed wing and rookie mentor Manu Inigo go way back - all the way to the time when the former was not yet a full-fledged Red Cub and the latter was still an assistant on the Team A staff.

"Nung nasa Team B pa lang ako, talagang buong tiwala na binigya niya sa akin," Sanchez shared. "Kaya pag-akyat ko rito tapos siya na nga ang head coach, sinasabi lang niya sa aking gawin ko lang yung ginagawa ko nung Team B. Talagang kini-keep ko lang yung trust ni coach Manu."

Indeed, the Tarlac native is only making the most out of the golden opportunity that has been handed to him in his last year in high school - that being the coaching change from JB Sison to Inigo as well as the transfer of Lazaro and graduation of Talampas.

"Para sa akin, malaki rin tiwala ko kay coach kasi kahit anong mangyari, 'di niya ako hinahayaang mapariwara," he said. "Bagkus, tinulungan pa niya akong matuto nang matuto. Siya na rin po kasi tinutuying kong tatay paglipat kong Tarlac to Taytay."

Without a doubt, Sanchez has coach Manu, the coach who had believed in him since day one, to thank for all of this. "First laro ko po galing Tarlac, si coach Manu na coach ko tapos sinabi niya agad na wag mahiya at gawin lang yung laro ko. Kung paano raw ako nakilala, tuloy-tuloy ko lang," the former said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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