UAAP Season 75: Juniors Division Standouts

Angelo Hubert Cani and the Bullpups are looking
to repeat as UAAP Juniors Champs. Can they do it?

When it comes to the high school basketball scene in the Metro, the NCAA Juniors Division is the undisputed king. Most highly-touted recruits transitioning into the college game are sourced from the high-powered juniors programs of San Beda, San Sebastian, Letran, La Salle Greenhills, and, recently, Mapua. This early, a lot of potential blue-chippers from those programs are already being keenly observed by college scouts. Chief among these are San Beda’s Arvin Tolentino, Letran’s Rey Nambatac, the Paras brothers of La Salle, and Mapua’s double-double machine, Jeric Diego. Their predecessors, the likes of Baser Amer, Kevin Alas, Thomas Torres, and J-Jay Alejandro, were all heavily courted by teams from both the NCAA and UAAP.

That, however, doesn’t mean that the UAAP scene is lacking in talent. There have been several players from the UAAP Juniors Division who have also made waves in the Seniors ranks. Most notably, of course, is the “Phenom” himself, Kiefer Ravena, who has had stints with several iterations of the National Team. Aside from him, other UAAP Juniors standouts of the recent past are SSC’s Ian Sangalang (from FEU-FERN), Tamaraw Terrence Romeo (FEU-FERN by way of Letran), Green Archers Arnold Van Opstal, Joshua Webb (both from Zobel), and Jovet Mendoza (from NU), and Ateneo’s other homegrown talents – Jai Reyes, Juami Tiongson, Tonino Gonzaga, Von Pessumal, and Paolo Romero (now with UP).

Naturally, this begs the question, “Who’s next?” Who’s the next Kiefer? Who’s the next big thing to come out of the UAAP Juniors Division?

That’ll be really tough to answer, but, at least for Season 75, the following names should be included in the conversation (in alphabetical order):

1)    Paolo Ancheta (UPIS)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 10.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.2spg, 44% 3pt shooting
-       Paolo’s preseason-high was 15 points against Mapua. In one game against the powerhouse NU Bullpups, he hit four triples. Needless to say, he’s a really streaky shooter. If he’s got the hot hand, then he can bury it all day. He led all UAAP juniors in total three-pointers made during the summer. He also had the third-best 3pt% amongst UAAP juniors who attempted at least one three per outing. He needs to add more variation to his game, though, if he wants to barge into a collegiate roster.

2)    Anton Asistio (AHS)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 16.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.0apg, 36% 3pt shooting
-       Anton led the Blue Eaglets in scoring throughout the Filoil tourney. He was also their deadliest outside threat. His preseason-high was a 22-point effort against the SSC Staglets, where he connected four times from beyond the arc. The thing that makes him so dangerous is he knows how to find the open spots on the court, and his release is almost as quick as Jai Reyes’s. Like Paolo Ancheta, however, Anton needs to add more to his game if he wants to be known for more than just a volume shooter.

3)    Raph Atangan (NU)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 16.5ppg, 6.9rpg, 2.8apg, 36% 3pt shooting
-       Raph is definitely one of the bigger names to watch out for in next season’s rookie batch. As early as last year, he was already turning heads with his versatility and athleticism. He’ll continue to be the leader of an NU team hoping to build on last season’s unprecedented title run. He had a relatively pedestrian start to his preseason, norming just under 14 points per game in NU’s first four matches, but he turned it up in the Bullpups’ last few assignments, averaging a shade over 19 points in each of their last four games.

4)    Nicko Bahia (UST)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 10.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.6apg
-       I remember seeing Nicko walk the hallways of the Ateneo HS back when he was a freshman. Even then, it was clear this kid was built to play ball. The next time I saw him was last season, playing for the Tiger Cubs against his former batchmates in Ateneo. One word that can accurately describe his game is fearless. He has a propensity to drive against anyone, no matter the size or repute. He’s rah-rah all the way. Think Marc Cardona without the outside touch. His preseason-high was scoring 20 points against the vaunted Red Cubs of Mendiola.

5)    Angelo Hubert Cani (NU)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 10.0ppg, 5.4apg, 4.1rpg, 1.3spg
-       Unless he transfers to another school for college, NU will no longer need to worry about the PG position. Hubert is their man. The former RP-Youth standout was a blitz throughout the preseason, dazzling fans and opponents alike with his speed and court vision. His most impressive game was a 16-point, 10-assist effort against the Arellano Braves. Unlike his teammate, Raph Atangan, though, Huber faded in the most important games, averaging just 5.0 points in the semifinals and the battle for third place. He also needs to be more consistent from beyond the arc, where he converted just 23% of his attempts, including going 0-for-9 in his last four matches.

6)    JJ Domingo (FEU-FERN)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 10.6ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.2spg
-       There are three Domingos in the FEU-FERN roster – JJ, his twin JS, and Roger. By far, JJ has the most upside. Like Nicko Bahia, this kid doesn’t back down from anyone, despite what might seem like a thin and frail façade. He can also wax hot from beyond the arc, as proven by his four threes against the JRU Light Bombers in their first game of the summer. The problem is he can also go ice cold, as proven by going just 4-of-21 from rainbow country in FEU’s next four games. It is worth noting, however, that at 5.0rpg, he is an exceptional rebounder for a two-guard. Whether that will count for something when the recruitment wars start, well, your guess is as good as mine.

7)    Arwin Margallo (AdU)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 19.2ppg, 7.6rpg, 3.0spg, 2.0apg, 56% FG shooting
-       Arwin is the best player on what will probably be a middling Adamson Baby Falcons squad. He opened the preseason with a whimper, scoring just 4 points against San Beda, but he more than made up for it by pouring in 92 points across his next four games, including a 39-point explosion against the Junior Altas. He’s a pretty accurate offensive threat, aiming mostly for the easy buckets and drives, but he can also get out in transition, especially after forcing turnovers. He led the whole Filoil cast with 3.0 steals per game, and he should continue to be a vulture when Season 75 opens. At best, he could be the next Leo Canuday, but, at worst, he might just be forgotten.

8)    Prince Martin (UST)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 15.8ppg, 7.4rpg, 2.8apg
-       Prince was a revelation to start the summer league. He scored in the 20s in each of his first three games, including a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double against the Baby Falcons. His performance tapered off, though, in UST’s last two games, where he averaged just 8.5 points against LSGH and San Beda. This kid has a lot of upside, but he needs to prove he can hack it against the big guns and not just against weaker opposition.

9)    Jolo Mendoza (AHS)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 7.8rpg, 1.8apg, 1.2rpg, 33% 3pt shooting
-       Yes, the stats aren’t objectively impressive, but don’t be quick to judge. Jolo, after all, is barely 14 years old. He’s been in high school for a little more than a month only. And the last freshman to ever make the Ateneo Juniors Team? I don’t know, you may have heard of him – Kiefer Ravena. Jolo is being hyped to be the next “Kiefer” in the same way Kobe and LeBron were supposed to be the next “MJs.” Jolo does share a lot of qualities with Kiefer, like fearlessness, the raw talent, and great basketball IQ. The thing where Jolo trumps Kiefer, I think, and this is not even “relatively speaking,” is that Jolo is a much more polished jump shooter. I’m not sure if Jolo will ever achieve the feats Kiefer has already achieved in the same span of time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does meet the same expectations, or even surpass them. Remember that moment in the 2007 UAAP Juniors Finals when Kiefer stole the ball a couple of times from Jeric Fortuna? That was a defining moment for the then-upstart Ravena, and I’m sure the now-upstart Jolo Mendoza will have at least one similar defining moment this season. Just wait for it.

10) Jerie Pingoy (FEU-FERN)
(image from
-       Aside from Raph Atangan, Jerie Pingoy should be the most sought-after player coming out of Season 75’s Juniors Division. He was hardly visible in the preseason, playing only in the Fr. Martin’s Cup (he was absent from both the Filoil and Freego FCBL meets), due to reported bouts with tuberculosis. The latest news indicates he has recovered well and is slowly getting ready to take another crack at the UAAP Juniors crown. One word to describe him? Whirlwind. That’s what he is on the court. He jukes on either side, dribbles between his (and his opponent’s) legs with uncommon ease, and his hops are awesome for a kid of his stature. Simply watching him play is a joy in itself. It’s when he turns the ball over or when he tries to do too much that makes things hard to bear. Think of him as a right-handed Marvin Cruz or a Mark Tallo prototype.
-       Some early preseason whisperings indicated he might miss this season because his desire was to join Ateneo in college. This is because of a peculiar FEU “guideline” where kids who finish high school in FEU-FERN are “highly discouraged” from transferring to another university. By all recent indications, however, he looks set to continue as the Baby Tams’ main man.

11) Thirdy Ravena (AHS)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 11.8ppg, 6.6rpg, 4.4apg, 1.2spg
-       Mark my words, Thirdy Ravena will have a breakout season. He was still in a feeling-out stage last year, where he sometimes played guard and sometimes played undersized big man. This season, expect most of the offense to revolve around him. Actually, expect most things to revolve around him. He didn’t lead Ateneo in scoring over the Filoil tourney, but he was their top rebounder and playmaker. His development was also a big reason why Ateneo beat the powerhouse Hope Christian HS team in the Freego FCBL, and why the Eaglets barged into the Fr. Martin’s Cup Finals against San Beda. The easiest way to appreciate his progress is to just drop by the Eaglets’ practice sessions. He’s more vocal, he’s more assertive, and he wants the ball. He wants to be a leader. One gets the feeling he’s out to prove a point – that he’s not just someone’s brother, but that he is his own man. And for Season 75, if the Eaglets have any hopes of dethroning NU, Thirdy has to be THE man.

12) Raymart Sablan (UPIS)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 9.7ppg, 12.2rpg, 2.0apg, 1.7bpg
-       Raymart won’t light up the scoreboard with 20 points. He won’t be the focal point of UPIS’s offense. He is, however, the Junior Maroons’ anchor on defense and main rebounding glutton. He was, by far, the best rebounder amongst all the UAAP Juniors in the preseason, and he was third amongst all UAAP Juniors in blocks. I remember a game against Ateneo last season where he hauled TWENTY rebounds. I mean, who the hell does that?! He doesn’t have the height to be able to do that in college, but he has the skills to be a Paolo Romero-type inside operator. Not bad for someone so unheralded. Look for him to lead the UAAP Juniors Division in rebounding – by a mile.

13) Renzo Subido (DLSZ)
-       2012 Filoil Stats: 19.8ppg, 3.5apg, 3.0rpg, 2.3spg, 31% 3pt shooting
-       Not even a nose injury and a protective facemask could slow Renzo Subido down. This diminutive kid from the Lourdes School of Mandaluyong (I think Zobel has around three or four recruits from LSM in its roster) had some flashes of awesomeness last year, but should build on that and don the mantle of leadership for the Junior Archers this year. With the departure of Gabby Reyes, Axel Torres, John Boo, and Isaac Lim, Subido should be the focus of practically everything in coach Boris Aldeguer’s backyard. He is to Zobel what Thomas Torres was to LSGH last year. And by the time he’s ripe for college, look for him to be a top-flight PG.

*Unless otherwise specified, all images are by Carl Sta. Ana/Filoil Flying V Sports.
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