SEVEN of the best young basketball players in Northern Luzon will get a chance to join the Jr. NBA Jr. WNBA All Stars as part of their hoops journey after the Regional Selection Camp concluded in Baguio City on Sunday.
After a weekend of skill tests, drills and scrimmages in the inaugural leg of the eight-year youth basketball program at the St. Louis University campus, four boys and three girls aged 13-14 were chosen to attend the Jr. NBA Jr. WNBA National Training Camp in Manila next month.
Jr. NBA coach Rodney Santos explained the hardest part was picking the right players.
“Alam mong marami kang puwedeng kunin but alam mo limited lang ang slots. It took us a while during deliberations because we wanted to make sure well-deserved - hindi dahil angat sila dito. We’re trying to look if they can compete when they go to Manila where it’s another level.”
One important factor the former PBA player and current San Sebastian coach said is the desire and the heart of the kids to be part of the Nationals and, not just physical size or attributes.
“We just don’t look sa magaling mag-dribble o mag-shoot but yung sipag and willingness. Kung ikaw yung pinaka-malaki dito pero wala kaming nakikita sa iyo na may potential we don’t have time to teach, we’re here to select players who will compete,” he pointed out.
The selection committee picked Baguio natives Magnus Gabriel Ines, 13, Jan Zyrus De Ayre, 13 and Christine Angela Venterez, 12. Mannuel Andrey Obert, 13, Christian Allen Magnot, 14 and Kristine Cayabyab, 12 on the other hand are all from Dagupan City.
The seven selectees will take part in the Jr. NBA Jr. WNBA National Training Camp on April 23-27 under the supervision of NBA and WNBA coaches. In 2014, these were Tina Thompson, the very first draft pick of the WNBA who won multiple championships with the Houston Comets, and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.
Cayabyab is the only attendee who participated previously in the 2014 Nationals. The 5-7 center, who learned hoops from her father, said she has learned to “be positive and value teamwork” and is eager to show the improvement from last year to the coaches.
Day 2 of the weekend-long trial process started with several drills followed by scrimmages under the constant supervision and observation of the coaches led Santos.
The program has become an important stepping stone for many young players in the provinces who are given much-needed exposure.
The 13-year old Ines, a Grade 7 student who stands 5-11, said its his first time to join and was told to improve his layups and backcourt skills. He also learned to give the ball up to the point guard and not try to force his way inside the paint all the time.
“There is no ‘I’ in team po,” said the Dagupan baller who admitted he was a bit nervous since he doesn’t know what to expect.
The LeBron James fan (“kaya niya po kasi lahat”) told Spin.ph he currently plays the center position because of his height but is learning to play point guard to develop his ball-handling skills.
Last year, the Jr. NBA Jr. WNBA team from the Philippines joined their foreign counterparts in Beijing where they got the chance to watch an NBA game and meet some of its past and present stars.
Players who took part in the camp learned the S.T.A.R. Values that emphasized the importance of “Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Attitude and Respect.”
Some of the attendees came from as far as Ilocos Sur, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.
One of the girls from Dagupan, Rosemarie delos Santos, said she was happy to be selectedas one of the point guards. She said she was instructed by Ish Tiu of the Perlas national women’s basketball team that she should defend and pass to her open teammates during the scrimmages.
Coach Louie Gonzalez, a member of the KIA Carnival coaching staff in the PBA, said they have to consider many factors when picking the kids for the Nationals.
“Ang dadalhin naming players to Manila are packaged already… Sometimes the players forget they are under a selection process. They need to impress us - you need to stand out every time we call you and show us you want to learn.”
“In case they have an attitude problem or give headaches when they go to Manila, our selecting decisions would be questioned so we make sure every time we are in the regional selection camp we consider the mental and physical aspects. Especially now, all skills can be taught but a player’s approach to the drills, ayun yung mahalaga —Is he excited? Gusto niya ba matuto sa drills or does he treat it like he’s done this before?”