TWO players known more for their non-scoring skills will be under the microscope on Friday when fierce rivals San Beda and Letran face off for the second time in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Baser Amer, the pass-first playmaker from Davao, leads the Lions’ charge (9-2) as the defending champions try to solidify their hold of the top spot.
Meanwhile, Raymond Almazan, the comebacking big man from Bataan, spearheads the Knights’ bid to sustain their Final Four push.
San Beda mentor Ronnie Magsanoc is probably the best person who can attest as to how great the 5-foot-10 Amer has been running the Lions’ offense. Like Amer, Ronnie Magsanoc also played as point guard during his heydays.
“Baser is a very good point guard with tremendous upside,” said Magsanoc, one of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players.
Known more as a scoring point guard during his playing days, Magsanoc believes the sophomore Red Lion has the skills to become a legitimate star in the near future.
“He has a different package and is going to be a full-fledged star in the near future,” Magsanoc said of Amer, who dished off 27 assists combined in the Lions’ last two games, including 11 in the team’s 74-56 rout of College of St. Benilde last Saturday.
Amer, who personally met his idol Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics during the two-day visit of the NBA star here in the country this week, is also best remembered for his unbelievable shot from the backcourt that sent the Lions’ first-round game against University of Perpetual Help Altas into overtime.
On the other hand, after an almost two-month absence the 6-foot-7 Almazan has suddenly given the Knights a significant boost down low with his shot-blocking and rebounding prowess.
“Nag-iba talaga yung aura ng team,” admitted Letran coach Louie Alas.
Almazan’s presence in the paint was felt the most in the Knights’ 62-57 win over the Altas when he registered 15 rebounds, four blocks, and four points to run away with the NCAA’s Player of the Week award.
Although Kevin Alas and Carlo Lituania hit the crucial baskets against Perpetual down the stretch, it was Almazan who made the key defensive stops that helped the Knights notch their sixth win in 11 outings.
In the first game, Emilio Aguinaldo tries to keep its longest winning streak in the league alive when it takes on Mapua at 4 p.m.
The Generals, who have won their last three games for a 4-7 slate, have been banking on the solid plays of Cameroonian center Cedric Happi Noube, currently ranked third in the MVP race.
And the Generals are up against a back-to-the-wall Mapua side whose Final Four hopes have been slowly slipping away after losing a close 60-63 decision to Jose Rizal University last Monday for a tie with Emilio Aguinaldo College at 4-7.