High school basketball stars to play in all-star game

MANILA, Philippines - Out of over 100 hopefuls who tried their luck in the National Basketball Traning Camp (NBTC), only 30 were called and chosen to be a part of the grandest clash of high school standouts from all over the country.

They will play in an exciting and first-ever high school all-star game on Sunday, March 4.

Top 30

Multi-titled retired high school coach of the San Beda Red Cubs Ato Badolato, is the head of the selection committee for the all-star game. With the influx of talented young players who want to experience and learn from the respected coach in the country, Badolato, alongside National U-16 head coach Olsen Racela, carefully went through the selection process.

They pruned the list down to 30.

"Our selection was based on how hard they worked. Of course, everyone had to tryout out for a slot but there were seeded players," Badolato, who has worked with the UAAP and NCAA said. "We selected so many bigs, point guards and wingmen. I think we made a good selection."

A living testament

When he was still playing for the FEU Baby Tamaraws, aside from his towering height, Russel Escoto instantly caught the attention of the basketball scouts due to his incomparable skills and talents.

Escoto is a product of the NBTC.

Now playing as a power forward and center for the Far Eastern Univerity (FEU) Tamaraws in the UAAP, he said, "Malaking tulong ang NBTC sa akin dahil tinuruan nila ako ng basic basketball hanggang pataas. Tinuruan nila akong maging magaling na player at magkaroon ng fighting attitude. Pinakaimportanteng natutunan ko sa kanila is yung dapat marunong makinig sa coach."

(NBTC was a big help to me because it taught me basic basketball skills. They taugh me to be a good player and to have a fighting attitude. The most important think I learned from them is to listen to the coach).

Powerhouse cast of coaches

The tournament is the brainchild of the National University (NU) Bulldogs' mentor Coach Eric Altamirano.

"We've been running for the fifth year now since 2007 and this is the first time we're staging an all-star game," said Altamirano. "I don't want the people to think that this tournament will only favor NU because I'm here. This is actually a training ground wherein other coaches and scouts can check out players from all over the country."

Alex Compton, an assistant coach of the Powerade Tigers in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), is also a part of this project. He emphasized the value the camp has for coaches.

"Actually, before the players, here in NBTC we want to train the coaches first. We want them to get better, so they'll be able to guide the young players to the right path," he said.

Grateful players

Five notable names playing on Sunday's game at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig are former Mapua Red Robin-turned-NU Bulldog JJ Alejandro (also a member of the Energen U-16), Gboy Babilonia (of the San Beda Red Cubs), LSGH's scoring machine Thomas Torres (who will don a DLSU jersey come July), Jeron Teng (of the Xavier Stallions but will team up with Torres at the DLSU camp this July), and John Baytan of Chiang Kai Shek.

"Ang NBTC ang nagpakilala ng basketball sa Philippines at sila ang dahilan bakit kami nandito (NBTC introduced basketball to the Philippines and they are the reason we are here)," said Alejandro, who also made waves in Vietname last year while playing for Energen U-16.

The experiences they've gained since they started with the NBTC program played a huge factor in their decision to play in the all-star gathering.

Jeron Teng added, "Sa NBTC, they don't just teach us basketball. They also help build our character and habit forming na din."

On March 2, 7pm at the Phil Sports Arena, San Miguel Beermen Consultant Coach Rajko Toroman will hold a special practice session with the 30 standouts in preparation for Sunday's showdown. - Rappler.com