We all know how it went down at the 2017 SLAM Rising Stars Classic. The top 24 HS players in the Metro showcased their wares for the whole Philippines to see. The country’s top prep ballers duked it out on the hardwood of the Gatorade Sports Center. And by the time the final buzzer sounded, one Rising Star shined the brightest among them all.
Expected to strut the stuff that made him the Most Valuable Player of the 2017 UAAP Juniors Tournament, Juan Gomez De Liano overcame a rocky start to lead Team Hype to a 89-83 triumph over Team Punks. Flashing his offensive game come the second half, with a stretch that included a cool fadeaway jumper over fellow HS MVP Troy Malliliin of the NCAA Juniors’ side La Salle Greenhills, and punching in crucial charities that secured the game for his squad, De Liano also made a key steal in the payoff period, his only one of the game, which shifted the momentum in favor of Team Hype down the stretch.
Emerging victorious once more in the Rising Stars Classic as he was also part of the winning team a year ago, the former Batang Gilas member was adjudged as the game’s MVP, a fitting ending to his storied high school career.
SLAM PH sat down with the southpaw swingman before and after the game as he joined the likes of Hubert Cani, JV Gallego, JBoy Gob and Aljun Melecio in the elite circle of Rising Star Classic MVPs.
SLAM PH: Given that this is likely your final match at the HS level, how do you see yourself as a collegiate player? What are the facets of your game do you think you need to improve?
Juan Gomez De Liano: I think I’ll do well. Just continue to work every single day. I probably need to work on everything regarding my game, kasi I’m not satisfied with it yet. I know that I still have a lot to improve on, such as the consistency of my shot and decision-making on the court, whether I should pass the ball or take a shot.
SLAM PH: Does the thought of playing with your older brother (Javi Gomez De Liano) help in terms of you adjusting at the collegiate level of play?
Juan Gomez De Liano: Siyempre, it makes it much easier kasi I was teammates with him ever since grade school kami so ‘yung bonding namin nandoon talaga e. We know what we are capable of doing on and off the court kaya it makes things easier.
SLAM PH: This is your second time to play in the Rising Stars Classic, so what are you looking forward in this year’s edition?
Juan Gomez De Liano: It’s the exposure and the competition with these guys. These are the top players ng high school. It motivates more to get better.
SLAM PH: What can you say about the game?
Juan Gomez De Liano: I didn’t expect the game to be that intense. It’s an All-Star game pero seryoso.
SLAM PH: You were quite cold in the early stages of the match and had several miscues. How were you able to adjust come the second half of play?
Juan Gomez De Liano: Sabi ko sa sarili ko na I’ll play my game come the second half. Second half came, and I became more confident as my shots started to fall.
SLAM PH: Was there any pressure from you to carry Team Hype given that two of your teammates went down in the first half?
Juan Gomez De Liano: Definitely, since Jonas Tibayan and Germy Mahinay are two of our key guys inside, so I felt the need to step up in their absence.
SLAM PH: Can you share us the experience of playing in this game alongside the best HS players of the country?
Juan Gomez De Liano: It’s a honor, not everyone gets the opportunity, to be appreciated and selected as one of the best HS players. Just to go out here and compete with the rest of them, it’s a blessing for me.
SLAM PH: You’ve already cemented your HS hoops legacy with this award, so what is in store for Juan Gomez De Llano at the next level?
Juan Gomez De Liano: Probably go for Rookie of the Year (at the UAAP Seniors) this coming season, and try to help the UP Fighting Maroons reach the Final Four. Once we get there, we’ll take it one game at a time.