UNIVERSITY of the East coach Derrick Pumaren vividly remembered one day last year when he woke up so early just to scout Bon Batiller in a preseason tournament.
“I saw him (play) sa Filoil (Cup) sa Holy Trinity College,” recalled Pumaren. “Nagbabad ako kahit eight ‘o clock in the morning doon sa Hoops (Center in Mandaluyong City). I was just watching him.”
As it turned out, the veteran coach’s basketball instincts and keen eye did not fail him, as the unknown playing for a school based in General Santos City proved to be a gem of a find.
In his first season with the Red Warriors, the 21-year-old Batiller, Pumaren's first recruit since he took over the UE job last year, has been leading his team in scoring with an average of 21 points through three games.
His average is so impressive Batiller trails only Ed Daquioag of University of Santo Tomas (24.3) and reigning MVP Kiefer Ravena of Ateneo (23.3) in the college league's scoring ladder.
The General Santos City native is also the second leading three-point shooter in the league with eight, behind only Roger Pogoy of Far Eastern University with nine.
But while Batiller has already proven himself to be a scorer, Pumaren said he is more impressed with the versatility of a player who despite being a shooting guard for UE, can also play the role of playmaker.
“I like him because he can create and he can run the team. He can run the point. Right now, I use him as a second guard,” said Pumaren.
With Batiller leading the way, UE has notched a 2-1 win-loss record including an upset win over National University, ahead of another tough test against Ateneo on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Pumaren hopes that UE has gained enough confidence to pull off another win.
“Hopefully, that two wins gave us confidence. I do believe we can compete against Ateneo. We just have to play our game,” said Pumaren.