EVERYONE'S been talking about Kai Sotto and Sage Tolentino, but there's another Filipino talent who's toiling in the US under the care of East West Private.
Cholo Anonuevo has been turning heads since going to Cincinnati, Ohio to train, and the 18-year-old has already caught the eyes of colleges there, with Tennessee State already expressing its intent to sign him.
But the interest really shouldn't come as a surprise, especially for those who handled the 6-foot-4 forward first hand.
"I'm sure marami pang offers siya na makukuha doon," said Far Eastern University coach Olsen Racela.
Anonuevo has already committed to go to the Tamaraws for college before the global COVID-19 pandemic put basketball to a stop.
Rather than mope, the Ireland-born high-flyer seized the opportunity to test his skills and hone his talent in the US.
"Very coachable yang si Cholo," said FEU-Diliman head coach Allan Albano. "Kita naman natin na athletic talaga 'yung bata, pero napakataas ng basketball IQ niya."
Those gifts have been evident since Anonuevo arrived from Dublin to Manila when he joined the Baby Tamaraws back in 2018.
To the mentors, he was an uncut gem who is too shy to speak yet has the potential to be a future cornerstone of the FEU program.
"Yung unang dating niya dito, talagang mahiyain siya. Siguro kasi hindi pa niya kilala yung mga teammates niya," remarked Albano.
"Unang dating niya dito, naki-practice lang siya for two weeks tapos bumalik din sa Ireland. Pero eventually, bumalik din si Cholo."
Assistant coach Denok Miranda added, "Nung first time ko siya nakita back in December 2018, malakas lang siya tumalon, mabilis tumakbo, at may court sense pag naglalaro. Ang problema, walang skills."
Green as he was, Anonuevo made the most of his chances, notching 5.1 points on 53-percent shooting, to go with 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in 22.0 minutes off the bench for a loaded FEU-Diliman side back in UAAP Season 81.
But what set him apart from the other promising talents was his dedication, with coaches seeing first hand how driven Anonuevo is to continue his basketball growth.
"As time went by, nao-obserbahan namin na sobrang sipag nitong bata na ito," said Miranda. "Before Season 82, doon talaga namin nakita yung napakalaking potential ni Cholo kasi nag-improve yung ball handling at shooting niya in a short span of time.
"Three times a day kami nage-ensayo. Nage-extra work kami ng 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., then practice ng 12 noon to 3 p.m., and then nagshu-shooting pa siya hanggang 9 p.m."
"Kung dati halos hindi yan magsalita, naging vocal na siya nung tumagal siya sa team. Minsan, makikita ko siya sa side na tinuturuan niya yung mga teammates niya na hindi makasunod sa mga plays namin," he said. "Doon mo makikita yung leadership niya on and off the court."
There was even an instance that Anonuevo had a chance to achieve a rare triple-double, yet put his team before his personal glory.
"Pwede siya mag-triple-double. Sabi namin habulin niya yung points niya, pero ayaw niyang mag-score. Ang gusto talaga niya is pagalingin yung mga teammates niya," said Albano of that game where Anonuevo stuffed the stat sheets with his six points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and a block in FEU-Diliman's 115-66 bludgeoning of University of the Philippines Integrated School back in Jan. 26, 2020.
That was only a glimpse of what Anonuevo can do as he posted 9.1 points on 37-percent shooting, alongside 9.4 boards, 3.1 dimes, and 2.1 steals in 26 minutes of play in his final season with the Baby Tamaraws. That performance was key as they finished runner-up in the UAAP Season 82 boys basketball wars.
As he embarks on a new chapter in the US, his coaches at FEU-Diliman think that Anonuevo is just scratching the surface of his potential.
"He still can improve sa marami pang bagay," said Albano.
Miranda added: "Alam natin na yung strengths niya is rebounding at ang ganda ng court vision, parang point guard. And of course, he's a lockdown defender. Pero kailangan pa niya lahat ma-improve yung game niya, lalo na sa katawan dahil kailangan pa niyang lumakas."
If Anonuevo can do all of those, his coaches are confident that the sky is the limit for him, whether he stays in the US or heads back to the Philippines to rejoin FEU.
"Si Cholo is very humble at napakasipag, kaya hindi yan magpapatalo sa loob ng court," said Albano.
"Para siyang si Giannis (Antetokounmpo) at LeBron (James)," Miranda chuckled. "Unique talent kasi si Cholo kasi point forward ang laro niya. Wala naman tayong point forward dito sa Pilipinas."