The 2016 Jr NBA/Jr WNBA All-star team with Norris Cole, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, NBA Philippines Managing Director Carlo Singson, Alaska VP for Marketing Blen Fernando, Alaska Mascot E.Cow, Jr NBA Coach of the Year Pocholo Elegino, Jr WNBA Coach of the year Ewon Arayi, and Jr NBA Coaches Jeffrey Cariaso and Craig Brown (Photo By Jamil Buergo)
From over thousands who participated in the Regional Selection Camps from key cities nationwide, the Jr NBA/Jr WNBA Philippines presented by Alaska has selected fifteen talented young basketball players to their Jr NBA/Jr WNBA all-star team at the culmination of the 3-day National Training Camp last Sunday held at the Music Hall of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
For the 10 boys and 5 girls, the end of the selection process marked the start of their NBA journey that will take them abroad for an NBA experience trip together with other Jr NBA/Jr WNBA all-stars from South East Asia and a chance to watch a live NBA game.
Gracing the 3-day Jr NBA/Jr WNBA National Training Camp are New Orleans Pelicans point guard Norris Cole and former WNBA player Taj McWilliams-Franklin. The two NBA and WNBA stars helped train and inspire the 50 boys and 24 girls that emerged from the Regional Selection Camps that were held in Baguio, Cebu, Davao and Manila.
Leading the Jr NBA Philippines all-star team is Kai Zachary Sotto, a 6’9 thirteen year old prodigy who is considered one of the futures of Philippine Basketball. The product of St. Francis of Assisi School in Las Pinas City was also named the Jr NBA NTC Most Valuable Player. Joining Sotto are Jearico Nunez (UPHSD), Miguel Rey Luis Tan (Xavier), Julian Alfonso Jugo (LSGH), Isaiah Miguel Blanco (LSGH), Tracy Carl Dadang (University of San Carlos), Ric Ozner Gatuz (Cherished Moment School Pangasinan), Andrei Philip Lechoncito (SJI Bacolod), Fritz Felix Valencia and Harold Alarcon (both from Bacolod Tay Tung HS).
Kai Sotto’s appearance in the 2016 Jr NBA program created a stir that made him an overnight sensation in social media the day he joined the Regional Selection Camp two weeks ago. While this is Sotto’s third attempt in making it to the Jr NBA all-star squad, his height for his age was impossible to ignore. He was only 6’4 last year and has grown to 6’9 after just a year.
“Sobrang saya ko po kasi pangarap ko talaga na makasali sa all-star ng Jr NBA. Pangatlong sali ko na po ito kaya salamat sa Panginoon at tinulungan Niya po ako hanggang dito” said Sotto. In the previous years, he continuously improved his craft after being cut on the Regional Selection Camp on his first try and failing to make it to the all-star team last year despite making it to the National Training Camp.
Kai’s father Ervin, who was present in all the Jr NBA camps attended by Kai couldn’t hide his happiness upon seeing his son not only making it to the team but also getting the MVP award. “Sobrang saya ko. Nagpapasalamat ako at nakita ko kasi lahat ng hard work niya eh nagbunga naman” says the former PBA player. “Talagang pinaghandaan niya itong Jr NBA kasi three years na siyang sumasali eh. Last year mo na ito dito so walang reason para hindi ka mapili” adds Ervin. The supportive dad also gave his son all the encouragement he needs to make it to the team. “Palagi kong sinasabi sa kanya work hard lang. Sa basketball, hindi lang puro puntos ang kailangan mo. Kailangan mo rin ng rebounds, blocks at tulungan mga kakampi mo” shares Ervin.
Comprising the Jr WNBA all-stars are Darlene Regasajo and Florence Jil Talas from Abellana National High School from Cebu, Ma Cecilia Quilenderino (Dalig National High School, Rizal), Rozie Amatong (Modern International Learning Center), and Aloha Marie Betanio (Malaybalay CCS). Florence Jil Talas got the nod for Jr WNBA NTC Most Valuable Player honors.
The end of the 2016 edition of Jr NBA/Jr WNBA presented by Alaska sure found a very good take-off point going into their tenth year next year. “We look forward to seeing more players next year as it will be our tenth year of staging the Jr NBA” says NBA Philippines Managing Director Carlo Singson. “Together with Alaska, we are committed to providing world-class basketball instruction to further our mission of encouraging an active lifestyle among Filipino youth.”
The Jr NBA/WNBA Philippines presented by Alaska have CloudFone, Gatorade, and Globe Telecom as Official Partners and Spalding is a Supporting Partner. ABS-CBN Sports + Action, Basketball TV and NBA Premium TV are the Official NBA Broadcasters of the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA in the Philippines.