The future is now and we can see the future in the UAAP Juniors
The first round of the UAAP 80 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:
CJ CANSINO – University of Sto. Tomas
(yellow jersey with ball)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 27.6 points, 43.5 percent shooting, 14.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals
(yellow jersey number 27)
CJ Cansino has single-handedly made University of Sto. Tomas matter again – and that’s not an exaggeration.
Through his sheer will, the Tiger Cubs find themselves well inside the playoff picture at the end of the first round.
The long-limbed forward is an all-around weapon who can get his shots inside the paint, from the perimeter, and even from the charity stripe where he has already scored a mind-boggling 60 points – that’s out of 76 attempts, giving him a 78.9 percent shooting clip from there.
It’s not just scoring where he makes an impact, though, as he also can also make plays for teammates like scoring guard Kobe Palencia as well as disrupt plays for opponents.
And oh, the six-foot-two graduating player is also tops in the league in rebounding – yes, he has more rebounds than the next kid on our list.
The even better news for UST? Cansino wants to stay for college.
KAI SOTTO – Ateneo de Manila High School
(blue jersey number 11)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.9 points, 52.5 percent shooting, 12.7 rebounds, 4.9 blocks
(blue jersey number 11)
All eyes have been on Kai Sotto ever since he was discovered in the Jr. NBA.
Now in his second season for currently league-leading Ateneo de Manila University, he has given all of us more than enough reason to never take our eyes off of him and all of his now 7-foot 1-inch stature.
A legitimate inside presence the likes of which the high school ranks have never seen before, Sotto is unstoppable in getting points near the basket and collaring rebounds from anywhere inside the paint.
And yeah, the kid atop our list has more rebounds than him, but nobody in the Juniors can touch the 15-year-old’s rim protecting ability. 34 blocks through seven games? That’s unheard of!
The even better news for Ateneo? He’s just in Grade 9, that’s three more seasons of eligibility after this one.
SJ BELANGEL – Ateneo de Manila High School
(white jersey number 0)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.3 points, 50.6 percent shooting, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals
(blue jersey number 0)
Sotto has been getting all the attention, but just like a year ago, Ateneo has been SJ Belangel’s show to run.
The kid who famously scored 99 points back in his hometown of Bacolod is now a complete player.
The scoring has always been there for Belangel, but it’s his now pinpoint passing that is the more welcome development for the still undefeated Blue Eaglets.
It doesn’t hurt either that the 18-year-old is doing nothing but living up to being a floor leader.
L-JAY GONZALES – Far Eastern University-Diliman
(yellow jersey number 0)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.6 steals
(yellow jersey number 0)
No doubt, the shots have yet to fall for L-Jay Gonzales as he is only shooting 32.4 percent from the field.
Just like what he showed in his starmaking stint in last season’s Finals, however, it has again become clear that he doesn’t have to score to make an impact.
In all of the league, Far Eastern University-Diliman’s main man is first in steals, second in assists, and fifth in rebounds.
And there’s one thing we all learned last season, it’s never to count out the Baby Tamaraws and their do-it-all guard.
DAVE ILDEFONSO – Ateneo de Manila High School
(white jersey number 10)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.9 points, 42.7 percent shooting, 8.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals
(white jersey number 10)
Dave Ildefonso is not top five in the league in anything – he is well inside the top 10 in many things, though.
With Sotto, Belangel, and the rest of Ateneo’s stacked lineup, it’s easy to forget that they have a versatile player who can score from all over the floor while also defending the opposing team’s forwards and guards.
And among all of high school, the son of Philippine basketball legend Danny Ildefonso has one of the most college-ready bodies – he can bump with the best of them and he can move with the best of them.
That is exactly why make no mistake about it, Dave Ildefonso has been a key cog in the Blue Eaglets’ ascent to the top of the leaderboard.
RHAYYAN AMSALI – Nazareth School of National University
(blue jersey number 13)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 13.0 points, 43.2 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 steals
As expected, there has been an adjustment period for Nazareth School of National University and new head coach Goldwyn Monteverde.
That hasn’t stopped Rhayyan Amsali from producing as expected, though.
Already having proven himself as an all-around offensive weapon, the third-year forward is now displaying the development of his defense to the tune of a third-best steals total.
RJ ABARRIENTOS – Far Eastern University-Diliman
(green jersey number 17)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals
FEU-Diliman is already fortunate to have somebody like L-Jay Gonzales and yet, they actually have two of that kind of player on their roster.
RJ Abarrientos can do the very same things his Finals MVP teammate can, but when focused, has proven himself to be an impactful 3-and-D swingman.
The nephew of “Flying A” Johnny Abarrientos will never have the ball in his hands all that much, but when he does, good things happen more often than not.
JOEM SABANDAL – Adamson High School
(blue jersey number 21)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.3 points, 45.9 percent shooting, 6.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.2 steals
A new day has dawned upon Adamson High School and serving as the brightest ray of light is Joem Sabandal.
The heady guard is best in the league in assists, second in steals, and third in points – doing anything and everything in his power to keep his team afloat.
The journey back to the heights they once reached is far and long, but the Baby Falcons are nothing but glad that they already have the person to steer them there.
AGEM MIRANDA – University of the East
(white jersey number 4)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 17.9 points, 41.1 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.1 steals
University of the East remains winless Round 1, but unlike a year ago, there is reason to watch and there is reason to hope.
Agem Miranda has made the most out of his opportunities on a talent-lacking squad and has opened eyes on how his all-around game will translate if given more help.
The one-and-done guard will have to find that out on some other team, but at the very least, he has energized the Junior Warriors back on track.
RAVEN CORTEZ – De La Salle Zobel
(green jersey number 6)
ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 12.6 points, 64.2 percent shooting, 10.9 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 1.1 assists
It looks like Boris Aldeguer, the mentor who molded Joshua Webb and Arnold Van Opstal into promising big men, has finally gotten his hands on his next project.
There is no doubt that Raven Cortez is raw, even rawer than Ateneo’s Sotto, but his size and skill give him all the potential in the world, much like Ateneo’s Sotto.
The Batang Gilas member may not have an outside shot just yet, but he has already put his 6-foot 7-inch frame to good use as the second-best blocker and fourth-best rebounder in the league.
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