SSC Staglets wonder boy Kean Baclaan, 14, out to prove he belongs in NCAA juniors 
At 14, Kean Baclaan will be among the youngest players in the NCAA juniors division. Reuben Terrado

AT first glance, Kean Baclaan looked like any kid preparing for a small basketeers tournament.

Instead, the kid will be playing in the NCAA juniors tournament.

At 14, the 5-foot-7 Muntinlupa native is one of the youngest players to ever earn a place among the teams in the NCAA juniors division, where he will be up against players as old as 19.

He hardly sound daunted.

"Masaya po," Baclaan told SPIN.ph when asked how he felt being included in the NCAA lineup during an interview after San Sebastian's practice on Friday.

"Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos. Siguro deserving po ako ma-lineup dahil ginagawa ko ang best ko sa practice at sa laro sa lahat ng games namin."

Ateneo center Kai Sotto, who stands 6-foot-11, made his debut in the UAAP high school tournament last year at the same age. But 14-year-olds are rare in the two rival leagues, especially in the guard spot.

Yet the experience will be nothing new for Baclaan, who, as a seven-year-old growing up in Barangay Bayanan in Muntinlupa, was already playing against his uncles and members of his school's varsity  team.

"Dun lang (ako natuto) sa amin sa kalye. Merong mga naglalaro sa mga liga. Puro matatanda mga kalaro ko sa Muntinlupa," he said.

It did not take long for Baclaan's talent to be noticed, earning a place in San Sebastian's Team C when he was brought to campus by a former coach.

"Dinala ako ni coach Bob (Lotuaco) sa Team C. Siguro nakita nila na puwede na ako. Tapos pinaakayat na po ako sa taas (San Sebastian gym located at the sixth floor) para makipaglaro sa kanila," he said.

So far, Baclaan has won four MVP awards and four titles for San Sebastian in different leagues in his age group, hastening his rise to Team A.

San Sebastian team captain Damie Cuntapay said the teenager's game is mature well beyond his years.

"Marami na siyang nalaruan na liga eh. Nung pumunta siya dito, nakita ko laro niya, bagay siya sa system namin kaya natanggap namin siya kahit bata pa lang siya," said Cuntapay.

"Magaling na siya mag-isip sa loob ng court. Matalino siya maglaro."

Baclaan and the Staglets open their NCAA Season 93 campaign on Sunday against last year's finalist San Beda at the Letran gym.

The teenager said he is nervous, but vowed to prove he belongs.

"Sobrang kinakabahan din pero sabi sa akin ng mga coaches, kahit bata ka, kailangan ipakita ko kung ano ang nasa puso ko. Ibibigay ok ang lahat ng makakaya ko," said Baclaan.

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