MANILA, Philippines – After a long two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAAP and NCAA men’s basketball tournaments made their much-awaited return earlier this year.
Fans were treated to a highly competitive collegiate wars, with Game 3 of the UAAP Season 84 finals between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the UP Fighting Maroons going down as one of the most exciting championship-clinching showdowns in league history.
What hoop junkies missed out earlier this year, however, was the thrilling on-court action from the high school ranks as it still hasn’t made its return since March 2020.
As the UAAP and NCAA plan to finally bring back juniors basketball this school year, here are five high school players to watch out for on the hardwood.
Standing at 6-foot-8, Seven Gagate of the La Salle Green Hills Greenies is arguably the most versatile high school big man in the country right now.
The 18-year-old Gagate saw action for Gilas Pilipinas Youth in the FIBA U18 Asian Championship in Tehran, Iran and averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds in the tournament
Unlike other centers, Gagate can score consistently both from inside and from the three-point area and it would be very exciting to see him show off his wares under new Greenies head coach Renren Ritualo.
Like his Gilas Youth teammate Gagate, Kobe Demisana is a towering 6-foot-8 big man from the UPIS Junior Fighting Maroons program.
The tall and lanky Demisana, who has a similar play style as 7-foot-3 Filipino basketball wunderkind Kai Sotto, is a two-way center who can swat away shots and can finish efficiently inside the paint.
In the FIBA U18 Asian Championship, Demisana put up 4.2 points on 45.5% shooting and 3 rebounds in just 8 minutes of playing time, thus making him one of the top prospects to look out for.
Also part of the Gilas Youth squad, Kristian Porter is a 6-foot-5 power forward who will surely make a mark in the UAAP juniors as a member of the Ateneo Blue Eagles high school team.
Though he is not as tall as his fellow Gilas Youth big men Gagate and Demisana, Porter can definitely hold his own down low as he has a burly body frame that matches well with his playing style.
Aside from banging bodies and collecting boards, Porter also has a sweet stroke from beyond the arc, similar to the shooting touch of his older brother Kris of the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the PBA.
Following the footsteps of his father Jet and brothers Mike and Matt, Lebron Nieto looks to put on a show for the Ateneo Blue Eagles juniors squad once their tournament finally begins.
The 17-year-old sharpshooting guard Nieto, who already suited up for the Blue Eagles in UAAP Season 82, is set to carry the team’s scoring cudgels together with Porter, and fill the void left by his former teammates Forthsky Padrigao, Francis Lopez, and Josh Lazaro.
John Rey Pasaol
Just like Nieto, John Rey Pasaol of the FEU Baby Tamaraws is ready to take the next step and make a name for himself in the UAAP juniors division.
Count on the high-scoring guard Pasaol, the younger brother of Meralco Bolts forward and former UE Red Warrior Alvin, to get buckets and show the way for the Baby Tamaraws before moving up to the collegiate ranks. – Rappler.com