All you need to know from opening weekend of UAAP Juniors Basketball.
Welcome to Year 2 of the Kai Sotto experience
Before Season 79, Kai Sotto was seen as a mere physical marvel. Tall guy who happens to play basketball. The future of Philippine Basketball.
But by the end of last season, Kai broke out and put up ridiculous numbers against older, more experienced players. From a physical marvel, he was now seen as someone with legitimate basketball potential. However, there were still doubters to Kai, with some saying his breakout was a result of gulpi-de-gulat.
Fast forward to Year 2, and Kai starts it off with a BANG.
24 points (sips tea), 12 rebounds (sips a bit more), and 7 blocks (spits it out) in just 22 minutes (sips tea again just so he can spit it out once more).
Still, there are those who continue to doubt. It was against an Adamson team that’s more dark horse than contender this year, some said. Others are saying that he’s seven feet tall OF COURSE he’s supposed to be doing stuff like that!
But to be able to operate with such timing on his blocked shots and play with composure on both ends despite lacking the strength is mighty impressive.
Welcome to Year 2 of the Kai Sotto experience. This is just the beginning. We may end this year with Kai winning MVP… AS A 15 YEAR OLD. There’s to more tea being sipped, then spat out in the process throughout the rest of the season.
The FEU Baby Tamaraws have a long way to go to defend their championship
Many were surprised when the FEU Baby Tamaraws won the championship last year. There was talent in that team, yes, but they weren’t talented enough. But aside from their depth, they also had another thing that they could lean on: experience. Their team had chemistry few could rival. They had a line-up featuring Kenji Roman, Jack Gloria, Jun Gabane and Finals MVP LJ Gonzales which led the Baby Tamaraws to their first title in four years.
This season, the Baby Tamaraws are still seen as possible contenders to the championship beside the Ateneo Blue Eaglets and the NU Bullpups. They opened the season by beating a scrappy De La Salle Zobel Junior Archers squad, but Coach Allan Albano had plenty of reason to not be pleased with the performance that his boys put up.
Gonzales was his usual brilliant self, but the rest of his teammates did not make that good of an account for themselves. They managed to do enough to notch win number won, but “just enough” won’t cut it if they want to retain the title they worked so hard for last year. Thankfully, this is just the start. The FEU Baby Tamaraws have a long way to go before they can retain their championship, so expect Coach Allan and his boys to do all that they can to get there once more.
The NU Bullpups are deep and hungry for revenge
Before the season started, only three names from the NU Bullpups were treated as notable for fans. Obviously, Rhayyan Amsali was one of those players. But former Chiang Kai Shek studs and SLAM Rising Stars Miguel Oczon and Robert Minerva were also seen as pieces who would help the Bullpups in bringing the title back to Sampaloc.
Versus the UE Junior Warriors, Amsali put up a double double, while Oczon and Minerva didn’t provide much with the limited minutes that they were given. Instead, it was guys like Matthew Manalang, Batang Gilas player Terrence Fortea and Paolo Javillonar who did work for the Bullpups against the hapless Junior Warriors.
We’re living in a new age of High School basketball for the NU Bullpups. Gone are the big names like Mark Dyke, Justine Baltazar and John Lloyd Clemente. Rhayyan Amsali is a familiar name, but it’s going to take a total team effort, with the likes of Manalang, Fortea and Javillonar consistently contibuting for the Bullpups to have serious title chances.
Hey UST, here’s a team that you can cheer for AND can notch victories!
During the off-season, the UST Tiger Cubs surprised many by putting up solid performances despite their lack of big names. Inand Fornillos bolting UST to head to LSGH (they are in the NCAA Finals so this ended up well for Inand) reduced the number of big names that they had, but there was still some form of excitement within the UST community.
To start off Season 80, the Tiger Cubs made quick work of the UPIS Junior Maroons, beating them by a whopping 35 points. Despite that, there was plenty to be excited about with what UST showed in this game.
Kobe Palencia made a good account for himself scoring 23 points along with nine rebounds and four assists. Other notable players were John Cansino who put up a double double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Batang Gilas member Bismarck Lina who grabbed 18 rebounds in the win.
This is quite the way to start for the Tiger Cubs. They could very well be darkhorses this season. If there’s one thing UST fans can be assured of, it’s this: This is a team that will notch more than just one win in the UAAP Juniors Division. So as early as now, head on over to San Juan and cheer for these Tiger Cubs. There’s plenty of potential here.