One of the biggest hoops events in the country will kick off this morning at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena – no less than the 2017 SM-National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) League National Championships—a grand showcase of the Philippines’ best high school ballers. This mega event will give us a glimpse of the country’s future basketball stars as the very best young talents from Luzon to Mindanao strut their stuff in this four-day competition, from March 13 to 16. The NBTC has been organizing competitions in the high school level for years, and many of its products are now making waves in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) like Arthur Dela Cruz, Kevin Alas, LA Revilla, Kevin Ferrer and Baser Amer to name a few.
Some of the best basketball minds in the country have collaborated to stage the NBTC events, led by former PBA and National University (NU) coach Eric Altamirano, Alaska Aces chief tactician Alex Compton, and legendary high school mentor Edmundo “Ato” Badolato. Last year, NU took the NBTC League crown by trouncing NCAA giant San Beda in the finals. The tournament had 24 participating teams including guest squads from Canada and Thailand.
This 2017 version promises to be even more extravagant, with four teams coming from outside the country joining the Division 1 tourney, namely Filam Sports USA, Crossover Sports Canada, Camp David New Zealand, and AusPinoy One Solutions of Australia. Completing the eight-team National Championships in Division 1 are San Beda College, Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, NCAA champion Mapua Institute of Technology and recent UAAP titlist Far Eastern University (FEU). The USA team will be featuring Ron Harper Jr., son of National Basketball Association (NBA) great Ron Harper, Sr. The 17-year old, 6’5” forward Harper Jr. can play multiple positions because of his all-around skills. Crossover of Canada will be bringing back last year’s slam-dunk finalist Matthew Daves to head its squad.
In the Division 2 competitions, sixteen high schools from outside Metro Manila have qualified for the championships namely St. Joseph College-Olongapo, St. Jude College-Cavite, St. Louis College-Mandaue, Notre Dame of Midsayap Kidapawan, De La Salle Lipa, University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, Langatian National High School-Dipolog, Isabela Colleges-Cauayan, St. Roberts International-Iloilo, Assumption Montessori School-Cagayan de Oro, La Finn’s Scholastica-La Union, Jesus the Loving Shepherd-Naga, Ateneo de Davao, STI-Malolos, St. Benilde International School-Calamba, and New Ormoc City National HS.
The NBTC League started as early as November, where a total of 627 teams from 62 cities all over the country saw action. The Divisions 1 and 2 championships will be held on March 16. But before the finals, the NBTC High School All-Star games will be staged for both divisions. The Division 1 All-Star game features the most promising high school players in the land, many of who are huge stars in the NCAA and UAAP. The North All-Stars are San Beda’s Evan Nelle and Germy Mahinay, Arellano U’s Aaron Fermin and Guilmer Dela Torre, La Salle Greenhills’ Troy Mallilin and Unique Naboa, Ateneo de Manila’s Dave Ildefonso and Kai Sotto, Adamson U’s Encho Serrano, NU’s John Lloyd Clemente, Hope Christian’s Harvey Pagsanjan, UPIS’ Juan de Liano, Chiang Kai Shek’s Jonas Tibayan, and Filam Sports USA’s Bruce Daves. PBA veteran coach Jong Uichico will call the shots for the North team. The equally-talented South All-Stars are Mapua’s Romuel Junsay and Sherwin Concepcion, the University of the Vizayas’ Jan Cork Cabahug, Lyceum of the Philippines’ Erlan Umpad, Ateneo’s SJ Belangel, National U’s Karl Penano and Rhayyan Amsali, San Beda’s Sam Abu Hijleh, Chiang Kai Shek’s Miguel Oczon, Ateneo de Cebu’s Andrew Velasco, Emilio Aguinaldo’s Maui Cruz, Arellano’s Lars Sunga, USA’s Kamaka Hepa, and Canada’s Matthew Daves, with Josh Reyes as coach.
There will also be the usual All-Star side games like the slam-dunk and three-point shootout contests.
San Beda is considered by many as the team to beat in the Division 1 tournament but the Red Cubs will have their hands full against FEU, Mapua, and the USA squad that’s beefed up by Harper and the 6’8” Hepa.
I can’t wait to witness this spectacular NBTC event, which will be held at the MOA Arena and Palm Coast Marina gym.