Get to know La Salle's 3 one-and-done Fil-foreign recruits
MANILA, Philippines – The word "determined" may be an understatement to how bad the La Salle Green Archers want to return not only to the Final Four, but also to the UAAP Finals.
Two months after falling short in their Filoil preseason stint, the Green Archers retooled their arsenal and added a lot of height to their roster with three Fil-foreigners, who will only play for one season in the men's basketball tournament.
But just 3 games into the season, Jamie Malonzo, Keys Meeker and James Laput have already made their presence felt in the league and proved vital key players in La Salle's bid back to the top.
Filipino-American Jamie Malonzo Orme was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, but traces his Filipino roots back to Batangas.
Malonzo, who was born to a Filipino mother and an African-American father, has never set foot in the Philippines until receiving La Salle's invitation to play a one-and-done year in the UAAP.
However, the sharpshooter from NCAA Division I school Portland State University has remained true to his Filipino roots as he grew up in a big Pinoy community in Seattle. He's also an alumnus of O'Dea High School like Alaska Aces guard Chris Banchero.
"I always wanted to come back here [to the Philippines]. I never got the chance because I was so busy in basketball in the States," Malonzo shared to Rappler.
"And if you noticed, I have Malonzo at the back of my jersey, so I just wanted to represent my family when I come out here and play."
In La Salle, the 6-foot-7 swingman has added firepower from the get-go and even introduced himself to the UAAP with a poster dunk on back-to-back Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena during La Salle's opening game against rivals Ateneo Blue Eagles. (READ: Ravena brushes off Malonzo poster in rivalry showdown)
Although the Archers wound up absorbing an 81-69 defeat, Malonzo topscored with 18 points on his debut – a quick proof that he's one of the players other teams need to watch out for.
Keys Meeker is no stranger to adjusting to a new home, having moved from Hawaii to Maryland to Florida in his early years.
Now that he has made a move back to his mother's country, the Filipino-American is now adding Philippine basketball to the list of new experiences in his young career.
"It’s kind of like I’m learning as I’m going when I first got here, so every game is a new learning experience, every practice is a new learning experience, so I’m just taking the information as I go," said Meeker, who admits he wasn't that exposed to Filipino culture back in the US.
But Meeker got his first taste of Philippine ways when he visited his mother's side in Leyte last summer.
The Illinois State University graduate started to warm up to the UAAP after draining two triples in La Salle's escape win over National University.
Although he was sidelined in the game against University of the East due to a tendonitis injury, expect more from the 6-foot guard, who posted career averages of 8.5 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 rebounds in the NCAA Division I.
Up to this day, James Laput – born to Filipino parents but raised in Australia – has no idea how he shot up to 6-foot-9.
Standing as the tallest Filipino player in the UAAP this season, Laput admits he's actually a basketball late bloomer as he only picked up the sport at 13 years old.
But Laput, born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, now feels proud that through the sport, he also gets to represent the hometowns of his parents – Bulacan and Caloocan.
Despite playing basketball for just a few years, Laput moved to the US at 18 years old to play for Division II school Young Harris College.
Since there was no Filipino community in the mountains of northeast Georgia, it was all by luck that Laput got to meet Fil-Am Rob Reyes, the former PBA player who was watching the towering center's game.
"I was playing one of my games, Rob Reyes, an ex-PBA player, came up to me after the game then he just told me about the opportunity to play in the PBA or in the Philippines, so that pretty much how I heard about the Philippine Basketball Association and basketball in the Philippines and I still keep in contact with him," shared Laput.
Gifted with height advantage, Laput aims to be a vital cog in the paint for the Green Archers, as he chases a PBA dream as well. – Rappler.com