EYES ON YOU, KID: Players to watch out for in UAAP 78 Juniors

EYES ON YOU, KID: Players to watch out for in UAAP 78 Jrs
LOOK OUT. The future of Philippine basketball will battle each other in UAAP 78 Juniors.

With most of the stars from a season ago already having shot up into the Seniors division, it’s time for us to meet just a few of the names who will be the rising stars in this UAAP 78 Juniors Basketball Tournament.

JOLO MENDOZA – Ateneo de Manila High School

If not for Jaydee Tungcab and Adamson High School’s second surge, Ateneo would have had three of the five Mythical selections from last season. He may have just missed out on the hardware at the end of the elimination round, but Mendoza took home the more meaningful of prizes at the end of the tournament: the championship and the Finals MVP.

This time around, expect Mendoza to be in the discussion for top individual honors as he leads the Blue Eaglets in their title defense.

ALJUN MELECIO – De La Salle Zobel

The only Mythical Team member still in the Juniors division, Melecio returns at the driver’s seat of DLSZ’s high-octane attack. The kid was born to score, but will need to improve on his playmaking to turn himself into a legitimate MVP contender as well as push the Junior Archers towards their first championship since 2008.

GIAN MAMUYAC – Ateneo de Manila High School

A year ago, Mamuyac was the best role player any team could ask for: knocking down open shots generated by Mendoza or the Nieto twins (now Blue Eagles) all while defending the opponents’ best backcourt player. As he averaged 11 points in his tour of duty with Batang Gilas, however, the wiry guard proved he can do much, much more – just the running mate Mendoza needs.

JUSTINE BALTAZAR – Nazareth School of National University

Like we said in our season preview, there were times last year that the long and lanky Baltazar looked to be a better end-to-end player than Mythical selection Mark Dyke. Standing 6’6” tall, the second-year man towers above all and with a year of experience under his belt as well as some time to add much-needed bulk, he will be asked to do some heavy lifting to keep NU in contention.

BRENT PARAISO – De La Salle Zobel

(Green jersey guarding white jersey)

What the Eaglets have in Mamuyac, the Junior Archers also have in Paraiso – just with a little bit more aggressiveness. The designated enforcer in a squad lacking size, the third-year player will be given more responsibilities at the other end to fill the void left behind by QJ Banzon and Noah Webb.

SJ BELANGEL – Ateneo de Manila High School

(Photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

Melecio was born to score, but he may just have found his match in Ateneo’s recruit from Bacolod. Belangel famously scored 99 points in one game back when he was still playing in his hometown. However, he will have Mendoza and Mamuyac on his team this time around and will have to do a bit more playmaking this.

JAVI GOMEZ DE LIANO – University of the Philippines Integrated School

(Jersey #6)

The second of the Gomez de Lianos in UPIS, Javi played with the biggest effort of them all and averaged a 10.7-point, 11.6-rebound double-double all throughout last year. With the Junior Maroons eyeing to get back into contention, only a bigger and better effort is expected from their main man.

JET PUBLICO – University of the East High School

(Photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

Amidst the darkness brought about by last season’s nightmare of a season, a ray of hope shines on UE in the form of Publico. Contributing 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 11 minutes per game for Batang Gilas, the second-year man hopes some of that success rubs off on the Junior Warriors.

WILL GOZUM – University of the Philippines Integrated School

(Photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

Another youngster who gained valuable international experience with Batang Gilas, the 6’5” Gozum brings his 7.6 point, 6.4 rebound FIBA U16 averages to Diliman, providing an interior presence only a few teams will be able to match up with.

EJ AGBONG – Adamson High School

Jaydee Tungcab wowed everyone last year (and this year as a Soaring Falcon) with how well he gets into the lane. Agbong isn’t the same slasher, but does just about everything else good enough to become a key cog in the Adamson machine looking for another magical run to get back them into the Final Four.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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