Tryout walk-in Kenji Roman happy to repay FEU faith with big game in title-clincher for Baby Tams
Kenji Roman had team-highs of 18 points and 15 rebounds in the Baby Tamaraws’ 81-73 victory to sweep the Bullpups. Jerome Ascano

YEARS ago, Kenji Roman wasn’t on the radar of major high school teams in recruiting top talents.

But at the end of his juniors basketball career, Roman was able to make a name for himself, being a major part of Far Eastern University’s conquest of the UAAP Season 79 juniors basketball tournament.

Not bad for a player who was just a walk-in in a tryout by FEU.

“Nag-tryout lang po ako sa Morayta,” said Roman about his humble beginnings in 2014. “Pinabalik lang po ako.”

Recalling the fateful event as if it was just yesterday, Roman, who was then studying at AMA, was told by a friend that a tryout is being organized by FEU, which was then coached by Mike Oliver, now the Batang Gilas mentor.

“’Yung kaibigan ko sa amin, kakilala si coach Mike, baka gusto ko raw mag-tryout. Nakuha naman,” said the Novaliches, Quezon City native.

The rest was history for Roman, who became the undersized but efficient big man during his stint with the Baby Tamaraws.

“Masaya naman po na kahit galing ako sa tryout, napatunayan ko na kaya kong lumaban,” said Roman.

The 17-year-old Roman was especially reliable for the Baby Tamaraws this year when he normed 9.7 points and 9.5 rebounds in the elimination round and postseason matches of Season 79.

The 6-foot-tall Roman even had a fitting finale for his high school career in Game Two of the juniors final against National University when he contributed team-highs of 18 points and 15 rebounds in the Baby Tamaraws’ 81-73 victory to sweep the Bullpups.

Roman was determined to complete the sweep rather than give the experienced Bullpups a chance in the crucial Game Three, and give honor to the school that gave him a big break at basketball.

“Para wala ng do-or-die,” said the burly Roman, when asked about his performance in Game Two that he played in front of his family. “Sa next game, baka kumplikado pa dahil may championship experience sila (NU).”

“Masaya kasi bago umalis ng FEU, may iniwan kaming contribution sa school,” Roman said.

Looking forward, Roman said picking a college team is still far from his mind. Nevertheless, Roman added he still has to adjust to the college game, especially with his height and heft.

“Siguro, baka mag-move ako ng 3 or 4 (forward). Siyempre kailangan ko magpapayat at mag-aral ng dribbling skills,” said Roman.

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