THE BEST of the best High School Basketball stars will converge on March 16 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena with the holding of the annual SM-National Basketball Training Center All-Star Game. A total of 26 aspirants who survived the gruelling two-day tryouts will be joined by four players from the four overseas guest teams in a showcase of the future of Philippine hoops.
Leading the group will be last year’s Most Valuable Player guard Evan Nelle of the San Beda College-Rizal who will be joined by teammates Samuel Abuhijle and Germy Mahinay, a pair of promising centers. A good number of the players will be making their second appearance since most of the schools will see their first batch of Grade 12 students next academic year.
The teams have been divided into the North and South All-Stars based on their hometowns. The players were evaluated by a panel headed by legendary High School coach Edmundo Badolato who said that they did not strictly follow the geographic divisions because a lot of deserving kids would be displaced just because of their origin.
Nelle and Mahinay will be part of the South All-Stars of Coach Joshua Reyes together with reigning UAAP MVP Juan Gomez de Liano of UP Integrated School and NCAA MVP Troy Mallillin of La Salle Green Hills plus 6’10” UAAP Rookie of the Year Kai Sotto of Ateneo de Manila University. They will be joined by guards Florencio Serrano of Adamson University, Guilmer de la Torre of Arellano University, Unique Naboa of LSGH and Harvey Pagsanjan of Hope Christian High School, forwards John Lloyd Clemente of Nazareth School-NU, Dave Ildefonso of Ateneo de Manila University, Jonas Tibayan of Chiang Kai Shek College and center Aaron Fermin of Arellano.
Coach Joseph Uichico will mentor the North All-Stars consisting of centers Abuhijle and Erlan Umpad of Lyceum of the Philippines University-Cavite, guards SJ Belangel of ADMU, Romuel Junsay of Malayan High School of Science, Maui Cruz of Immaculate Conception Academy-EAC, John Galinato of CKSC and Andrew Velasco of Sacred Heart-Ateneo de Cebu and forwards Lars Sunga of Arellano, Miguel Oczon of CKSC, Jan Cork Cabahug of the University of the Visayas, Sherwin Concepcion of Malayan, Rhayyan Amsali and Karl Penano of Nazareth. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Coach Uichico who began his coaching career in the High School level nearly three decades ago with De La Salle-Zobel before moving on to be a multi-titled coach in the PBA and the national team.
Actually, it was Serrano who topped the committee’s rankings with a score of 87.9 out of a possible 100.0. Closely trailing him was Clemente (87.5) followed by Belangel (87.1) and Gomez de Liano (85.8) with Abuhijle as the best-rated center at 82.6.
Now on its tenth year, the NBTC will hold its National Finals tournament proper starting March 13 at the SM MOA Arena and the Palm Coast Marina Gym. A total of eight teams in Division I and 16 in Division II will see action.