FIBA Under-18 3x3 World Championship team members Arvin Tolentino and Thirdy Ravena, and former national youth mainstay Hubert Cani head the cast in what officials believe is the best All-Star roster so far since the inception of the Seaoil-National Basketball Training Center two years ago.
Thirty players from across the nation take part in the NBTC All Stars on March 9 at the Ynares Sports Arena, a talented batch that officials believe eclipses last year’s star-studded lineup featuring the Letran Squires’ Rey Nambatac, Kyles Lao of Xavier and Jerie Pingoy of Far Eastern University.
Nambatac went on to play for the Knights and was a key player in the team's run to the finals, while Lao joined the UP Maroons and won the Rookie of the Year award in the UAAP. Meanwhile, Pingoy moved to Ateneo and his college debut with the Eagles is among the most eagerly awaited in the UAAP.
Ato Badolato, who headed the selection committee, said picking the players during the tryouts last week was not easy.
“This season’s batch was the best in years and the selection committee had a difficult time in its final roster,” said Badolato during the official launch of the event on Monday at Shakey’s Malate.
“We expect an exciting game.”
NCAA Season 89 Most Valuable Player Prince Rivero is also seeing action, along with several unheralded high school stars from different parts of the country.
“I think in the last three editions, this is the most talented batch of high school players. Nagsabay-sabay silang lahat na magagaling kaya magsasama-sama sila for this All-Star Game,” said Eric Altamirano, NBTC’s program director since its inception in 2007.
Cani and his National University teammate John Paul Cauilan, and Chiang Kai Shek’s Mohammed Salim are elated to be picked for the All-Star Game presented by Seaoil and backed by MVP Sports Foundation, Meralco, Smart, NLEX, Maynilad, Philex, and Molten.
“Siyempre, great experience ito para sa amin kasi exposure din ito para sa amin for college,” said Cani.
Cauilan, a member of the Mythical Five last season in the UAAP, said: “Sobrang saya dahil napabilang ako sa All-Star.”
“Blessed ako na maglalaro ako sa All-Star,” said Salim.
Tolentino, who played for San Beda in high school and will play for Ateneo in college, has mixed emotions about playing the All-Star game.
“Medyo malungkot din kasi last game ko na ito as a high school player pero masaya na mapabilang ako dito,” said the Red Cubs star.
Also seeing action are are NU’s Lorenzo Battad and Manuel Mosqueda, San Beda’s Javee Mocon, Ranbill Tongco and Rev Diputado, Michael Calisaan, San Sebastian’s Alfred Gayosa, Ryan Paule Costelo, and Ranzelle Yong, and Hope Christian High School’s John Apacible, Jobert Mercado, and Arjan Dela Cruz.
Jarrel Lim and Isaac Go of Xavier, Ivan Villanueva of Letran, Richard Escoto of Far Eastern University, Justin Serrano of Mapua-Malayan, and Diego Dario of University of the Philippines are also part of the game.
Several players from outside Metro Manila also impressed the officials, and making cut were Allen Delos Santos of Claret School Zamboanga, Glenn Gallardo of Sacred Heart of Jesus-Cagayan De Oro, Joshua Edjan of Hua Siong College of Iloilo, Keith Lowell Pido of West Negros University, Allyn Bulanadi of Assumption College of Davao, and Arnie Padilla of Sacred Heart School Cebu.
With NBTC being the official grassroots of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, executive director Sonny Barrios has put his full support behind the All-Star game.
“SBP is fully behind NBTC’s All-Stars and we laud and appreciate NBTC’s efforts to actively make significant contributions to SBP’s grassroots development programs through the years,” said Barrios.
The All-Star Game will be played after the NBTC League National Finals set March 6 to 9 with 24 teams across all regions competing.