NIC Jorge has seen thousands of youngsters go through his BEST Center classes in nearly 40 years at the helm of the most popular basketball teaching program for kids in the country.
But from all those aspiring cagers, there was one kid who the BEST Center founder said he knew would be a star the moment he laid eyes on him.
His name? James Yap.
Yap, the former national coach said, was only a kid playing for the Iloilo Central Commercial High School when he first saw him.
According to Jorge, he immediately called Yap over from the rows of dribbling kids and asked to see his hands.
“His hands were huge! Sabi ko this kid will go far talaga,” said Jorge, sharing the story during the launch of the Milo-backed BEST national finals in Cebu City.
Jorge's words proved prophetic, of course, as he saw the youngster from Escalante, Negros Occidental go on to star for the University of the East Warriors in the UAAP before becoming a two-time MVP in the PBA.
Jorge and his wife, Marlene, have a lot more interesting stories to say about former BEST Center students - some of whom have become among the best basketball players in the land.
That includes Kiefer Ravena, the reigning UAAP MVP from Ateneo who the couple said joined the program a year early.
“Kiefer (Ravena) was only four years old when his parents asked us if he could join the program," said Marlene. "Ang problema is the program starts with five-year olds pero nag-pursige sila so we let him play.
"Well, he outplayed every five-year old out there so we just let him go and he kept on coming back year after year,” she added.
However, it was a different story with Kiefer’s younger brother, Thirdy.
“Thirdy was a different story. He wasn’t really interested and he was forced to join. So every time we had a break from the training, the coaches ended up always looking for Thirdy because he was always somewhere, naghahanap ng tutubi,” added Marlene with a laugh.
“Kaya the Ravenas are very near and dear to us. They really grew up with us,” she added.