5 SLAM Rising Stars who stood out
MANILA, Philippines – The SLAM Rising Stars Classic held its third game on Sunday, March 20, at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. As was the case in the first two seasons of the event, the recent contest featured the top high school basketball players in the Philippines today, giving a glimpse into the future of the sport both in the college and professional ranks.
While each “Rising Star” obviously has the talent to be a household name down the line, there were 5 guys who stood out the most in front of fans, media, and even national television. The 2016 edition was arguably the most exciting since the event’s inception in 2014, and the show put on by these guys played a major reason why:
1. Tyler Tio, Xavier: 16 points, 2 rebounds, 7/14 FG
Tio has “future UAAP star” written all over him. The Ateneo Blue Eagles recruit is the type of player new head coach Tab Baldwin is going to love to have. He can do a little bit of everything, and has the type of mindset that will make him a fan-favorite off the bat in Katipunan.
Shooting? He’s got a superb form (even if he did struggle from downtown during the game, going 1-of-7.) He can run the point, knowing where and when to attack during pick-and-roll plays to either get buckets or find open teammates. He can also finish with either hand, which is complemented by his herky-jerky moves to get open.
He’s vocal on the court, but not to the point of arrogance. At just 17-years-old, leadership is already something you can see in his game.
From the many new Blue Eagles recruits, Tio may be the most ready for college basketball because he’s just so versatile and knowledgeable about the game. Ateneo may have found its new Chris Tiu.
2. Justine Baltazar, NU: 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4/5 FG
Baltazar is the walking picture of an instant double-double. To take it even further: at 6-foot-8, he’s the kind of dream prospect college teams crave for. He’s very mobile for his height, meaning his movement isn’t awkward or uncoordinated at all - a common issue for guys with his size at his age. He’s already effective when it comes to using the board while trying to score from the paint, plus he can hit free throws thanks to a soft touch and runs hard on the break as well.
La Salle, which has reportedly secured his commitment, is going to be benefiting from his abilities for years to come. And it’s not just the offense. On defense, he’s the kind of deterrent you want protecting the rim, with those long arms and good instincts blocking shots left and right. The most impressive part? He’s got a mean streak to him, the kind of intimidating factor that makes the opposition think twice before deciding to attack him in the paint.
The Green Archers may have just landed the next Raymond Almazan.
3. Aljun Melecio, De La Salle Zobel: 12 points, 5/12 FG, game MVP
If there’s one incoming college recruit best suited to do D’Angelo Russell’s now famous “I got ice in my veins” celebration, it’s Aljun Melecio.
Melecio, the UAAP juniors’ reigning MVP, is a scorer at heart, with the clutch prowess of a prospect years ahead of his age. Does he take a lot of shots to get his high-scoring games? Absolutely, but how many perimeter college players in the UAAP or NCAA will you find averaging 50% or above from the field?
His footwork is tremendous. It’s the reason why he can get any shot he wants off at any time, whether it’s a cold-hearted step-back 3-pointer or a drive to the rim for a fancy layup or floater. Is his 5-foot-7 height going to be an issue? Sure, but he has the speed and acceleration to blow past anyone, which is going to be a problem for opponents once he hits the later years in his college tenure.
The most important part? He’s absolutely fearless. He’s been taking - and making - clutch jumpers throughout his UAAP career, and he displayed it once again on Sunday when he hit the dagger 3-pointer to put Team Punks up 101-95 with 44 seconds to go.
We saw what Aldin Ayo did with Mark Cruz in Letran. Now Ayo has someone with the potential to be a more athletic version of Cruz in La Salle.
4. John Lloyd Clemente, NU: 23 points, 2 rebounds, 7/17 FG, 8/8 FT
No SLAM Rising Star on Sunday night looked more ready for college hoops than John Lloyd Clemente. The most impressive part? He has one more year of high school hoops left. That’s right.
He scored higher than everyone else and did it with an arsenal of moves and tricks: his jump shot? It’s almost automatic. An ability to get to the rim and draw fouls? He took 8 free throws, and made each one. His defense? Those long arms and quick laterals make getting past him very difficult. And he does all of the little things as well: scrambling for loose balls, tapping out offensive rebounds for extra possessions, knowing when to poke the ball for steals. He’s all over the place.
While he destroys your defense, you won’t hear a single word from him. It’s almost Kawhi Leonard-ish. To think he has a year to get even better and more well-rounded is very scary.
5. Juan Gomez De Liano, UPIS: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6/9 FG
The only more impressive thing than Juan Gomez De Liano’s game on Sunday was his after-shot dab celebrations, with his older brother Javi being on the receiving end for each one.
But in terms of hoops, the younger of the De Liano brothers was outstanding. He needs to bulk up a bit during his final year of high school play, but he already has the speed and shooting ability that will make his stock sell like hotcakes once he gets closer to college ball.
Another noteworthy part of his game is that he’s such an all-around threat. During the recent UAAP juniors season, he averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists a game, and he’s still getting better. At 6-foot-2, he has the ideal size to be a shooting guard in college. He can also play a lot of the point, and if he masters his playmaking a little more with his size and length, the potential will be limitless - something on display during the Rising Stars Classic. – Rappler.com
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