AT 15 years old and in only his second year with the National University Bullpups, Rhayyan Amsali is already making a name as one of the best high school players in the country.
Coming off a stint in the UAAP Finals as a first-year student athlete last season, Amsali is having a great start to Season 79 of the juniors basketball tournament, averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in his first two outings with the Bullpups.
More importantly, Amsali has filled a gaping hole in the middle for the Bullpups following the graduation of center Justin Baltazar, who is now making waves as a college rookie with La Salle.
The prodigious Bullpups forward has also shown maturity beyond his age, never hesitating to bang inside with older players while combining with Karl Penano to form a one-two punch in the frontcourt of the reigning juniors champions.
“Iniisip ko lagi na age doesn’t matter,” said the 6-foot-4 Amsali, who still has three years left to play for the Bullpups. “Wala naman po ‘yun sa edad. Nasa talent.”
The Zamboanga native is just one of the great finds of former NU Bullpups head coach Jeff Napa, who only spotted Amsali on YouTube through a video clip of one of his games in the Palarong Pambansa.
Although he plays the role of a big man in the UAAP juniors, Amsali said he idolizes Mike Tolomia, another Zamboanga product who was recently drafted by Rain or Shine in the PBA after a stellar stint with Far Eastern University in the UAAP.
“Same school kami,” said the Ateneo de Zamboanga product. “Proud ako sa kanya kasi dati nakikita ko lang siya naglalaro sa Zamboanga."
Amsali said as early as last year, he was already preparing himself for this season with the impending graduation of Baltazar.
“Handa kami last year pa. Alam namin na ga-graduate na si Balti (Baltazar). Nag-summer training kami ng maayos araw-araw. Lahat ng kulang namin, dinagdagan namin,” said Amsali.
Napa, now the coach of Letran in the NCAA, is impressed with the big gains shown by both Amsali and Penano.
“Kahit last year, maganda laro nila. Wala akong masabi sa kaniya. Ginagawa nila trabaho nila para sa team, hindi para sa kanila,” said Napa.
Now that he is one of the main guys of the Bullpups, Amsali is determined to make the team a champion once again this season.
“Papakita ko na deserving uli kami mag-champion,” Amsali said.