CEBU CITY – Battered and bloodied by a University of San Carlos Warriors defense that nonetheless could not stop him, University of the Visayas guard Jun Kent Manzo has taken his game to new heights and is hoping to take the Green Lancers with him all the way to a title in the 15th Cesafi men’s basketball finals.
After scoring 21 points in the series-opener, the 18-year old dynamo from Nasipit in Agusan del Norte put another superb performance in Game Two, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first half to help push the Green Lancers past the University of San Carlos Warriors, 70-63, and even the best-of-five series up at 1-1.
More impressive than the numbers was the manner in which he scored them as he carved up USC’s defense with shifty dribble drives, high-looping floaters, and confident jumpshots including one where he retrieved the ball from near halfcourt and with the shotclock winding down, took two steps in and rose up to can a long three-pointer that gave UV momentum heading to halftime of Game Two.
After the match, UV head coach Gary Cortes said that he wasn’t at all surprised with how Manzo has elevated himself to star status on the big stage, seeing how hard the youngster works in practice.
In a talk with Spin.ph on Tuesday night, just moments after coming from the hospital where he had his busted chin checked up on, Manzo concurred with his coach’s statement, revealing that he was, in fact, a gym rat by heart.
“I just focus in every practice and really go hard on every possession. I try to dominate my teammates in practice so that I can get used to doing that in actual games,” said Manzo in his native tongue.
Manzo is the latest in the long line of UV guards that have made their mark here in Cebu, a list that is headed by former PBA player Felix Belano who the latter has drawn comparisons to, according to current UV assistant coach Van Halen Parmis.
“Nakikita ko kasi na he goes hard all the time in practice. That’s why naisip ko na para siyang si (Felix) Belano,” said Parmis of the team’s former head coach who back in the day, was said to have practiced three times in a single day – once in the morning on his own, the second in the afternoon with the high school team and the third time in the evening with the college squad.
In spite of his burgeoning reputation, Manzo remains intensely hungry for improvement and will stop at nothing to hone his skills.
“It’s really my mind set, not to be content with my abilities now. That’s why I really will try to improve on whatever it is that I need to be better at. I just can’t rely on talent alone,” Manzo added.
Come Game Two, whether he’s battered, bruised or bleeding, count on Manzo to be at the forefront of UV’s drive toward the title.