It has been a breakthrough year for high school basketball in the Philippines with ABS-CBN Sports showcasing the UAAP Season 81 Juniors Basketball tournament starting in the second round this 2019 on multiple media platforms.
The country’s future basketball heroes now get to display their skills and promise on national TV via ABS-CBN S+A, on cable TV via S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and via livestream on ABS-CBN Sports YouTube channel, sports.abs-cbn.com, and iWant.
The UAAP Juniors tournament offers its own brand of basketball and allows fans to follow the players’ journey as they develop their game. Some of notable names that shone in the high school stage are Paolo Mendoza, Enrico Villanueva, Marcy Arellano, Kevin Ferrer, Terrence Romeo, and Thirdy Ravena.
This year, the defending champion Ateneo High School Blue Eaglets, who have the most Juniors championships at 19, are hoping for a repeat for a double championship with their big brothers, UAAP Season 81 Seniors champion Ateneo Blue Eagles.
The road won’t be easy, however, with the seven other squads putting up a fight led by current league leader National University Bullpups.
As we watch the squads battle for position in the Final Four, get to know the young student-athletes from each team who are currently making college scouts drool with their amazing talent and skill level, while also making hoop nuts across the country giddy with anticipation when and if they get to don the national colors.
1. Kai Sotto, Ateneo de Manila High School Blue Eaglets
There’s no question as to who the biggest recruit is out there, literally and figuratively. The 7 foot 1 Sotto stands heads and shoulders above his peers for a 16-year-old wunderkind. No one in the Philippines has the combination of height, basketball IQ, and skill that he possesses at his level. With the departure of his big brothers SJ Belangel, Dave Ildefonso, Jason Credo, and Joaqui Manuel to college, the Season 80 Juniors Finals MVP has been tasked to carry the Blue Eaglets on his shoulders and the young baller hasn’t failed to impress with monster statlines and highlights. This season, he has put up a staggering average of 25.8 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.9 blocks in 10 games so far. If that’s not impressive, we don’t know what is. 2. Carl Tamayo, Nazareth School-National University Bullpups
The logjam of prospects after Sotto is quite a nice problem to have for fans and writers alike. There’re so many to choose from but the Bullpups’ Tamayo edges his teammates Gerry Abadiano and Terrence Fortea on this list by his sheer potential. He’s the next best big after Sotto and he has been a handful this season for league-leading NSNU. After ten games, the 6 foot 7 Tamayo is averaging a solid 11.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in anchoring the middle for the Bullpups, making life easier for talented scorers Abadiano and Fortea a breeze. 3. RJ Abarrientos, Far Eastern University Baby Tamaraws
The FEU Baby Tams will only go as far as Abarrientos can take them. The spitfire guard from the FERN program has lived up quite to the hype of last name, and being the nephew of the one and only FEU and Filipino basketball legend, Johnny “The Flying A” Abarrientos. To emphasize his importance in the team: FEU needs all of Abarrientos’ 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists average in the 10 games they have played so far to have a fighting chance in the Final Four, where they currently sit at third. 4. Joem Sabandal, Adamson University Baby Falcons
Sabandal is part of the Baby Falcons’ Big Three that have made them ultra-competitive this season after a debacle a few years ago. Coach Mike Fermin has brought the best out of him, Adam Doria, and AP Manlapaz in an effort to resuscitate the Baby Falcons after former coach Goldwin Monteverde, along with his other recruits transferred to NSNU. For Season 81, Sabandal has churned out respectable numbers to lead the entire team 10 games into the tournament, at 13.7 points, spiking it with 7.0 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. 5. Mark Nonoy, University of Santo Tomas Tiger Cubs
If there’s one player who is ready to see action for the Seniors squad, it’s none other than Mark Nonoy, who has committed to the UST Growling Tigers as early as the first round of the Juniors season. The graduating point guard can be what the Tigers’ doctor ordered as the pride of Western Visayas has put up astounding numbers, leading his squad in scoring and assists at 21.1 points and 6.5 assists for the past 10 games. During that span, he has also tallied three triple-doubles. Diehard UST fans are already imagining a Growling Tiger lineup that features Nonoy, veteran guard Renzo Subido, and Season 80 Juniors MVP Cansino, which sounds really exciting! 6. Raven Cortez, De La Salle Zobel Junior Archers
The 6 foot 7 Cortez has only played two games due to injury but his presence is clearly needed by the Junior Archers despite having Lance Jomalesa and Henrie Subido putting up double figures for the season. In the two games he was able to suit up, Cortez averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2.5 assists and 2 steals. Without the 6’7” man in the middle, the Junior Archers have languished at the end of the standings. The Batang Gilas standout has four games left to salvage his season and still showcase the potential that has college scouts in awe. 7. Shane Dichoso, University of the East Jr. Warriors
Dichoso is the brightest spot for the Jr. Warriors this season as he’s the only one currently averaging twin digits in points while also leading the team in assists. Dichoso recently erupted for 21 and 15 points in losing efforts against the Tiger Cubs and the Blue Eaglets, respectively. By all accounts, head coach Florence Conlu needs all of Dichoso’s 13.7 points for the past 10 outings until the end of the tournament to have the Jr. Warriors finish respectably while hunting for their second win in the season. 8. Allen Torres, University of the Philippines Integrated School Jr. Fighting Maroons
Torres is one of the bright spots for the young Jr. Fighting Maroons squad that was once led by current college hoops star Juan Gomez de Liano. For the season, the forward has put up 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds, both team highs, in 10 games for the squad that is once more out of the Final Four. However, with rookie Torres in tow for the foreseeable future, head coach Paolo Mendoza’s squad is looking forward to Season 82 to show the league what they can accomplish.
These eight high schoolers are in for the time of their lives as they show off what they can do on the hardwood as future basketball stars that Filipinos will cheer for and idolize as ABS-CBN Sports airs the ongoing UAAP Season 81 Juniors Basketball tournament on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and via livestream on ABS-CBN Sports YouTube channel, sports.abs-cbn.com, and iWant.
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