TAIPEI – Smart Gilas-Pilipinas starting point guard L.A. Tenorio capped off an amazing breakout tournament overseas by emerging as the Most Valuable Player of the 34th Williams Jones Cup basketball tournament.
The Alaska playmaker was chosen as the best player of the 34th edition of the annual tournament following his scintillating performances in the Nationals’ last two games against Chinese-Taipei and Team USA that gave the Philippines its first major international title over the last 14 years.
Tenorio scored all of his 11 points in the final quarter of Gilas’ 76-72 win over Chinese-Taipei in the penultimate day of the tournament Saturday at the TPEC gymnasium.
He followed up his heroics by exploding for 20 points, including 11 in the payoff period as the Nationals beat the taller Americans, 76-75, in the match that became a veritable championship game of the meet held in honor of the late, former Fiba-Asia secretary general.
“I admit, we are already very tired,” Tenorio told the international media afterwards. “But like Michael Jordan said: ‘The heart never gets tired.”
“It was all heart for us out there,” he continued.
Back home, Ateneo coach Norman Black was the least bit surprised to see Tenorio stand out for Gilas in a tournament as big as the Jones Cup.
"He’s always been a tough player. But it’s only now that he’s been given the chance (to show what he can do for the national team)," said Black, who coached Tenorio in the early years of the Eagles' reign in the UAAP.
"He has a big heart and lots of talent in that small body."
The biggest compliment was given by Team USA coach Travis McAvene, who watched Tenorio tear his team apart with one clutch basket after another in the endgame.
“He was the big difference in the game,” McAvene said of Tenorio. “We did a good job on him in the first half and that’s why we were ahead by 14.
“But he created and hit shots for himself (in the fourth) and he killed us.”