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Grading the NBTC stars

Enzo Flojo

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The final top 24 ranking of the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) was formally released and I had my initial assessment on the top 12 on that list a couple of days ago.

This time, I will evaluate the last 12 players in the list. Some of these guys may not yet be household names and some don’t even play in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) or National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), but should still be given notice.

Cholo Anonuevo
(Far Eastern University-Diliman)

This is one kid I’m really excited to see play at the NBTC.

The Ireland-raised Anonuevo is one of the most electrifying players in high school right now, owing much to his ability to jump out of the gym and mix it up in the shaded lane.

This season, he also extended his range, adding a pretty dangerous three-point shot to his already impressive repertoire.

Justine Sanchez (San Beda-Taytay)

The 6-foot-5 Sanchez didn’t make the cut for Batang Gilas when he was still eligible to do so, but he has certainly gained vast improvements since those days when he was ranged against the likes of Kai Sotto, Geo Chiu, and Raven Cortez.

Now, Sanchez has made a name for himself in San Beda as one of the most consistently reliable big men in high school basketball.

Forth Padrigao (Ateneo de Manila University)

This Zamboanga-raised kid is surely one of the most polarizing personalities in high school basketball.

His decision-making may cause some people to shake their heads, but there’s no denying his talent, especially in terms of threading the needle with nifty dimes or carrying the load in the clutch and taking the hero-or-zero shot.

Whether you like him or not, Padrigao won’t really care. All he cares about is making the most of the big moments.

Gerry Abadiano (Nazareth School-National University)

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Abadiano is outside the first 12 on this list.

The Ilonggo native is one of the most polished products of this year’s high school class, and he should make an immediate impact for the NU Bulldogs in Season 83.

I have seen first-hand both in the UAAP and at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup how Gerry can impose his will on opposing guards, and he’s a sure-fire star if there ever was one.

Yukien Andrada (San Beda-Taytay)

This younger brother of former De La Salle University standout Yutien Andrada didn’t make a lot of headlines when he transferred from Dwight Eisenhower Middle School in Kansas to San Beda a couple of years ago, but he has definitely turned a lot of heads since then.

He played for Batang Gilas in the U17 World Cup two years ago, and he was instrumental in the Red Cubs’ NCAA juniors’ title conquest this past season.

Tony Ynot (San Beda-Taytay)

When even five-star US NCAA Filipino-American prospect Jalen Green takes notice and is impressed by your game, that counts for a whole lot of something.

That’s what happened to Ynot in last year’s NBTC, when he tried his best to put clamps on Green in San Beda’s knockout win over Fil-Am USA.

This former University of Southern Philippines Foundation standout is sure to impress even more in this year’s edition.

RC Calimag (La Salle Green Hills)

This second-generation cager hopped around quite a bit, playing for San Beda early on before moving to De La Salle-Zobel, transferring to La Salle Green Hills, and now finally deciding to take his talents to University of the Philippines for the seniors campaign.

Wherever Calimag goes, though, he will surely make an impact, given his propensity to score in bunches and his proclivity to hit the long bomb with ease.
He could be a sleeper Rookie of the Year race in Season 83.

Josh Ramirez (Letran College)

This former Chiang Kai Shek Blue Dragon turned NSNU Bullpup turned Letran Squire just turned 20 years old, making him a bit of an “old timer” compared to most kids on this list, but he has certainly maximized his time in high school, distinguishing himself as a deadly three-point threat.

He recently committed to the Green Archers’ program, giving new head coach Derrick Pumaren yet another streaky perimeter scorer.

Josh Cajucom (Hope Christian High School)

This Batang Gilas U18 candidate doesn’t get many headlines because he doesn’t play in leagues with comparable exposure to the UAAP, NCAA, or even the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (CESAFI), but that doesn’t mean he cannot hang with the big boys.

On the contrary, going by what he showed in the 2019 PCABL and in Batang Gilas practices, Cajucom, just like fellow Hope alum Harvey Pagsanjan, is a gifted scorer who can carry the team on his shoulders.

Miguel Tan (Xavier School)

This is another kid who is kind of flying under the radar, mainly because the biggest leagues where the Xavier Golden Stallions play are the Pilipinas Chinese Amateur Basketball League, Private Schools Athletic Development Association, Philippine Athletic Youth Association and the Metro Manila Basketball League.

A former Batang Gilas big man, Tan possesses the size and skill-set to dominate at this age group, but it remains to be seen if he has rounded his game enough to play toe-to-toe with the other vaunted frontliners on this list.

The NBTC will be the perfect platform for him to announce his readiness for the next level.

Ice Blanco (University of Cebu)

This son of Dondon Hontiveros was supposed to play with Penny Estacio and Cholo Anonuevo at FEU-Diliman this season before he decided to return to Cebu and see action for the Junior Webmasters.

He was even among the frontrunners in the Batang Gilas U18 tryouts in 2019 and is probably still in the mix for the team’s final roster later this year, which makes his appearance at the NBTC even more exciting.

Will he finish his high school playing career in Cebu, or will Manila programs once again go knocking on his door?

Mike Boniel (Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu)

A year ago, this pint-sized speedster wasn’t on anyone’s shortlist for top high school players, having played for San Carlos City High School in Negros.

He did, however, gain some attention when he dropped 50 points in an NBTC Regional finals game. Not long after, the Magis Eagles of SHS-Ateneo de Cebu swooped in and recruited him for the CESAFI.

And just last month, Boniel led the school in qualifying for the NBTC as they finished among the top two teams in the Cebu qualifiers.

So that wraps up my assessment of this year’s NBTC Top 24.

I tip my hats off to the guys who comprehensively covered and observed the myriad high school leagues in the country these past months, compiling Top 24 lists for the UAAP and the NCAA among others.

It’s no easy feat and it’s even harder to trim the extensive array of talents to just 24. I just hope we actually get to see these boys play once this accursed coronavirus pandemic finds its end.

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