EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 79 Jrs. players to watch

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jan 07, 2017 07:53 PM
EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 79 Jrs. players to watch
TOMORROWLAND. Get some shades for the future as these young stars will only burn brighter.

The first round of the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament is over and done with.

And we can’t wait for the second round to get started just so we could get even more glimpses of the future of Philippine basketball courtesy of these players:

SJ BELANGEL – Ateneo de Manila High School

(white jersey #0)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 15.7 points, 42 percent shooting, 10 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals

If last year, we were treated to the scoring exploits of Aljun Melecio, then this year, we have front row seats to the SJ Belangel show.

Behind his all-around brilliance, Ateneo has continued its contention even with no veteran leader on the lineup.

Not only has Belangel owned the spotlight, he has also allowed his teammates to shine brighter when around him.

And we can never forget that there was a time not so long ago that the Bacolod native dropped 99 points in his hometown.

All we’re saying is that there’s always that possibility with Belangel who was always a scorer, but is now learning to and excelling at rounding out his game.

ENCHO SERRANO – Adamson High School

(blue jersey #27)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.3 points, 58.4 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists

Still the most pleasant surprise in the season, “all-heart” Encho Serrano has, without a doubt, poured all of his heart in leading Adamson into the league-lead.

All this, despite standing a five-feet and 11-inches. That means that majority of those surrounding him on the court are more than a few inches taller and yet, he manages to almost average a points-rebound double-double.

And that 58.4 percent shooting? Most of that comes from inside.

So yeah, those giants got nothing on another product of Pampanga.

JUAN GOMEZ DE LIANO – University of the Philippines Integrated School

(maroon jersey #9)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 20 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 steals

If UPIS could just manage a few more wins, then there would be a three-way race this year for MVP.

Not only is Juan GDL the league’s leading scorer, he is also the Junior Maroons’ leading, well, everything.

Stuffing the stat sheet for State U at an absurd 35 minutes per game, the younger brother of now-Fighting Maroon Javi is making quite a name for himself.

More importantly, however, Juan GDL is proving that he is much more than just flash in exhibiting both defense and hustle.

JOHN LLOYD CLEMENTE – Nazareth School of National University

(white jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16 points, 48 percent shooting, 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists

JLC has been overshadowed by the three individuals above him in this list, but make no mistake, he remains the most college-ready player in the Juniors.

Size, shot-taking, playmaking, dribbling, defense, rebounding, the Pampangeno has got it all for you.

What’s more, he has also shown off quite a bit of leadership as he has seen to it that the Bullpups do not skip a beat even after the graduation of Justine Baltazar.

JLC’s not the frontrunner for MVP – perhaps not just yet, anyway – but he may not need that at all if he manages to lead NU to back-to-back championships.

RHAYYAN AMSALI – Nazareth School of National University

(white jersey #13)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12 points, 55.4 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 steals

While Justine Baltazar is the traditional tower we have all come to know and love, his heir apparent in Rhayyan Amsali looks like the future of big men.

Standing six-foot-four, carrying a wide frame, the recruit from Zamboanga already has all the post moves Baltazar has.

More than that, however, Amsali can go inside-out as much as he pleases. He can dribble, he can shoot, he even starts the break sometimes for the Bullpups.

And yeah, the kid is only 15. So don’t expect NU to fall out of contention anytime soon even with the exit of JLC.

GERRY ABADIANO – Adamson High School

(white jersey #6)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.3 points, 40.3 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.6 steals

Adamson was supposed to be Gerry Abadiano’s team in Season 79.

That was before Encho Serrano’s breakout.

Nonetheless, the stocky guard has still impressed with an all-around stat line while acting as wingman for the MVP frontrunner.

Adamson has kept the surprises coming in the season, but there was never any doubt that highly-touted recruit Abadiano was going to make an immediate impact.

KENJI ROMAN – Far Eastern University-Diliman

(yellow jersey #18)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 10.6 points, 44.1 percent shooting, 11.6 rebounds, 3 assists

There is no flash at all to how Kenji Roman goes around doing business.

Put simply, the bulky big man just makes his presence felt down low before ending the day with a double-double.

That’s what he did last year en route to a Mythical selection and that’s still what he’s doing this year.

In an FEU-Diliman team of underappreciated players, it’s workhorse Roman’s name that should always be mentioned.

DAVE ILDEFONSO – Ateneo de Manila High School

(blue jersey #10)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.1 points, 38.6 percent shooting, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks

Without a doubt, Dave is not the Ildefonso we are familiar with.

Armed with a deadly deep-range shot and deliberate ballhandling, the 17-year-old son spends as much time on the perimeter as his Philippine basketball legend father did while making a living in the paint.

Yes, the field goal percentage needs improvement, but Ildefonso’s size and length just may make him a more dangerous wing in the next level than the already dangerous JLC.

WINDERLICH COYOCA – Nazareth School of National University

(white jersey #18)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 13.7 points, 45.6 percent shooting, 3.1 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.6 steals

Who would have thought that this little-know defensive stopper is actually an end-to-end standout?

Known as the guard who made life hell for the likes of Aljun Melecio and Jolo Mendoza at the defensive a year ago, Coyoca is now also making life hell for whoever is guarding him.

Topping the scoring column for fully-loaded NU in three separate occasions, he has done nothing but prove that he can go at both ends.

And with his emergence, funnily enough, the Bullpups are a more complete team than they have ever been.

INAND FORNILLOS – University of Sto. Tomas

(yellow jersey with ball)

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.7 points, 61.3 percent shooting, 10.6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2.4 blocks

The struggles continue for UST High, but they may have a ray of light at long last in the form of Inand Fornillos.

The big man is norming a points-rebound double-double all while providing stout rim protection to the tune of 2.4 blocks.

The Tiger Cubs have not won much, but Fornillos has singlehandedly been making sure all of their opponents would have to work hard for it.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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