Many are hoping Ateneo’s Kai Sotto will move to the European basketball circuit after the current UAAP Juniors season, but before the towering 16-year-old 7’2 center can even make that jump (not yet certain, mind you!), let’s not forget that another Filipino is actually already making waves in España.
His name is Aaron Ganal.
Remember him because this kid’s star could shine very, very bright soon.
Aaron Ganal was born in 2004 in Andorra la Vella, capital city of the Principality of Andorra, which is a microstate (like the Vatican and Monaco) and is right smack between northwestern Spain and southern France.
Aaron’s mother is Ruby Daguro Ganal and his father is Bhoyet Ganal from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.
Aaron, who is currently listed at 6’1, is fluent in Spanish, French, English and Tagalog. He has been given a scholarship by FC Barcelona to play for their youth basketball team and he plays both guard positions.
He first shot to a significant level of mainstream consciousness in Spanish basketball circles in late 2017 after being named Most Valuable Player of the preliminary phase of the Minicopa Endesa de Gran Canaria. In that competition, the then 13-year-old Ganal averaged 22.0 points per game, turning heads with his uncanny ball-handling and ability to power his way down the lane.
His stock continued to rise in 2018 and he was eventually named to the Mythical Five of the Torneo FLL last November after putting up averages of 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Aaron was identified by top Spanish basketball website Gigantes del Basket as one of the Top 11 Outstanding Players of his generation and perhaps the most promising U14 player to come out of the Catalan region right now.
Spanish basketball media described Aaron as electrifying and armed with a devastating first step. He is a terrific one-on-one player and can easily break down most opponents with his dribbling skills and shifty movements.
Aaron is also a decent perimeter shooter, able to extend well beyond the three-point line and he is also noted as a very aggressive defender who will harass his opponents like a bloodhound.
I exchanged messages with him and his father last year and narrowly missed a chance to interview him when he and his family were in Manila last summer.
He mentioned how he is very interested to play for the Batang Gilas U16 team and is open to exploring his options of playing here in the Philippines after college. To be quite honest, though, I think he has the talent and demeanor to make even more headway in the European circuit like another Euro-based Filipino youth player, Dalph Panopio of the Stellazzura Academy in Italy.
For sure, I’d love to see Aaron don the Philippines’ colors (just like Panopio), especially this year as the U16 national pool should be named and assembled pretty soon in preparation for the 2019 FIBA U18 Asia Cup in Beijing, China.
If ever Aaron chooses to play for Batang Gilas, he should form a potent backcourt combination with the likes of Ateneo’s Ian Espinosa and San Sebastian’s Kean Baclaan to complement a frontline that is expected to be bannered by athletic 6’5 La Salle Green Hills forward Francis Lopez and NU’s pair of burly second-generation forwards Echo Laure and Kenji Duremdes.
Aaron is currently recovering from an ankle injury he sustained on the first day of the Esplugues Barcelona tournament but once he’s back in the pink of health, he should be making the headlines once more in Spain.
Again, don’t forget the name, folks — Aaron Ganal, a 14-year-old Filipino-Andorran dominating youth basketball in Spain!