JUNERIC Baloria 1, Rey Nambatac 0.
Two of the NCAA’s top rookies today went at it last week, with Baloria of University of Perpetual Help getting the last laugh.
Not only did the high-scoring freshman put on a better show, his Altas went on to deal Letran and Nambatac their first loss of the season behind an 80-66 decision last Thursday in the men’s basketball tournament.
The 23-year-old Baloria registered 28 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal with just three minutes of rest - a far cry from Nambatac’s numbers of five points (2-of-8 shooting), four boards, three assists, and a steal in 19 minutes of play.
Increasing his averages to a league-leading 20.8 points, along with 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, one steal, and .9 blocks in 33.4 minutes per game, Baloria is well aware he is the top Rookie of the Year candidate right now.
“Sabi niya (coach Aric del Rosario) dapat 'wag kong hayaan na mahigitan ka niyan (Nambatac),” Baloria said. “Dapat pakita mo na ikaw ang (mas magaling).”
But he also knows the 19-year-old Nambatac, who dropped his norms to nine points, 4.9 rebounds, two assists, and 1.9 steals in 24.5 minutes, is not that far behind.
“Siya `yung katapat ko, pero ‘di ko na iniisip yan,” Baloria said. “Basta ang first goal ko mag-champion kami. Yun `yung pangarap namin.”
Nambatac vowed to put on a better showing when he faces Baloria again in the second round when the Rookie of the Year race is expected to heat up.
“For me naman, okay lang sa akin kahit hindi ko makuha `yung rookie award kasi napatunayan ko naman sa sarili ko and sa iba ‘nung sa juniors pa lang,” the former NCAA Juniors’ Rookie of the Year said.
“Bonus na lang siguro na makuha ko `yung award ngayon, but I promise babawi ako sa second round,” Nambatac said. “I will do my best.”
San Sebastian’s 'Core Four' of Jamil Ortuoste, CJ Perez, Bradwyn Guinto, and Leo de Vera, along with and Emilio Aguinaldo’s Jack Arquero, and Fons Saavedra of St. Benilde are the other candidates for the top rookie award.
Nambatac’s teammate, Ford Ruaya, Arellano’s Jiovani Jalalon and Keith Agovida, Mapua’s CJ Isit, and Nick Abanto of Jose Rizal University are honorable mentions.