EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 81 Jrs. players to watch

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jan 03, 2019 06:42 PM
EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 81 Jrs. players to watch
Kai Sotto is, head and shoulders, above everybody else in all of high school

The first round of the UAAP 81 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:

KAI SOTTO – Ateneo de Manila High School

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 25.3 points, 62.1 shooting, 12.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 2.7 assists

For the first time in his three years in Ateneo, Kai Sotto is, bar none, the most dominant force in the UAAP.

In his first year, he took a backseat to Juan Gomez de Liano and SJ Belangel then as a sophomore, he was overtaken by CJ Cansino.

Now, however, there is no doubt that the 7-foot-1, 16-year-old is the best player in the league – tops in scoring, rebounding, and blocking.

And for good measure, just as he is a sure shot inside the paint, he also has the soft touch to make jumpers. Don’t send him to the line either as he makes good on 70.8 percent of his shots from there.

Yes, Sotto is an end-to-end force that nobody could match not only in the UAAP, but in all of high school.

RJ ABARRIENTOS – Far Eastern University-Diliman

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.4 points, 5.0 assists, 4.1 rebounds

RJ Abarrientos had already committed to FEU’s Seniors squad, but later backtracked to use up his last year of eligibility in the UAAP Juniors.

Safe to say, FEU-Diliman only welcomed him back with open arms and then proceeded to provide him the stage to shine the brightest he has ever been.

A complementary player to the likes of Kenji Roman and L-Jay Gonzales before him, the nephew of Philippine basketball legend Johnny now runs the show for the Baby Tamaraws to the tune of a scoring clip and an assist total both third-best in the league.

And even as he is now the primary playmaker for the green and gold, Abarrientos remains a dead shot as the league’s top marksman from three.

All in all, the 5-foot-11 stocky guard is the most college-ready player in high school (of course, we’re not counting Kai Sotto who’s not only looks like he's college-ready, but pro-ready as well).

CARL TAMAYO – Nazareth School of National University

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.5 points, 54.3 percent shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks

Due to various injuries, Carl Tamayo has only seen action in four out of seven games NU has played thus far in the tournament.

Each and every time he’s on the court, however, the 6-foot-7 only delivers the goods on offense as a paint presence as well as a threat from the perimeter.

At the other end, Tamayo also stands strong inside and outside and is actually third-best in terms of blocks.

The Cebuano has all the tools to go toe-to-toe with Kai Sotto, but will need to work on his strength and conditioning so that he may leave the injury bug that has been biting him far behind.

MARK NONOY – University of Sto. Tomas

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 18.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals

UST looked like it had hit the jackpot in unearthing CJ Cansino and then unveiling him as a dominant force in Season 80.

Only, the Tiger Cubs look like they have hit the jackpot again in discovering Mark Nonoy out of Negros Occidental and then developing him into their new all-around shining star in Season 81.

In just his first game in the UAAP Juniors, Nonoy dropped 31 points. Just two games later, he tallied a triple-double of 17 points, 16 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Now, he is second-best in points and assists and third-best in steals in all of the league.

More importantly, with their 5-foot-8 playmaker fronting the effort, UST has stayed in the conversation of playoff hopefuls in the ongoing season.

GERRY ABADIANO – Nazareth School of National University

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 13.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists

Nothing about Gerry Abadiano’s game will jump out at anybody. In fact, nobody will be able to find him in the top five of any statistical category.

In the same light, however, he also does not have any weaknesses that will jump out at anybody.

The 5-foot-9 lead guard just does whatever his team needs from him and he does it well. That is exactly why he has become to be heart and soul of a Bullpup side with championship aspirations.

More than that, Abadiano’s biggest contribution will not be seen in any stat sheet as he has turned out to be the leader that the blue and gold deserves.

JOEM SABANDAL – Adamson High School

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals

Joem Sabandal can make difficult shots with the best of them – whether that be willing a layup through defenders or willing a jumper in the face of a contest.

That ability has thrust him into the role of being the main man for upstart Adamson and into the recognition as the fifth-best scorer in the UAAP Juniors.

Make no mistake, however, the 5-foot-11 guard is not a score-first, second, and third player as he also contributes in the rebounds, assists, and steals departments for the Baby Falcons.

Just like any young player, shot selection is a point for improvement for Sabandal, but the fact of the matter is, he’s already well on his way into being a dynamic scorer.

TERRENCE FORTEA – Nazareth School of National University

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists

Looks like all Terrences have a scorer’s mentality as NU’s Fortea wants to get buckets just as much as San Miguel’s Romeo.

The good news for the Bullpups is that Terrence Romeo is just one of the hopeful trajectories 18-year-old Terrence Fortea’s career can take.

Like Romeo, Fortea is a sniper from deep (second-most triple total with 20) and an even better shot from the line (best free throw clip at 82.6 percent). He also has that handy floater that can frustrate defenses that close out on him.

Best of all, though, the 5-foot-10 Batang Gilas stalwart is still learning the ropes on being more of a facilitator. And when he masters that, he may very well exceed his namesake.

AP MANLAPAZ – Adamson High School

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 10.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals

While Joem Sabandal is Adamson’s go-to-guy, it’s actually little-known teammate AP Manlapaz who is in the top five of the MVP race.

And with a closer look, there’s every reason for him to be there as he, put simply, stuffs the stat sheet for the Baby Falcons – averaging a points-rebounds double-double to go along with marks from assists, blocks, and steals.

Safe to say, long-limbed forward Manlapaz has been anonymous before the season, but without a doubt, will only keep making noise on both ends.

BISMARCK LINA – University of Sto. Tomas

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist

Bismarck Lina is one of only three players to be averaging a double-double in the UAAP Juniors.

As their man in the middle, the cousin of school legend Kevin Ferrer sees to it that UST does not get bullied in the interior as whether it be offense or defense, he is a threat at the rim.

Most of all, the 6-foot-6 Lina, the second-best rebounder in the league, is always at the right place, at the right time to complete defensive stops or to clean up a teammates’ miss with a rebound.

JORDI GOMEZ DE LIAÑO – University of the Philippines Integrated School

ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist

Jordi is the best-shooting Gomez de Liano – or so he says. Of course, numbers do back him up as at just 15-years-old, he already has the third-best triple total in all of the UAAP Juniors.

At the same time, however, the younger brother of Javi and Juan has a long ways to go as while he already stands at 6-foot-5, he is also reed thin and can get muscled through by anybody and everybody. More than that, his team is winless in the season.

Nonetheless, it’s good to know that both the shooting and the confidence, both GDL trademarks, are already there – and it’s just a matter of time before Jordi grows into his body.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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