THE 10th consecutive Jr. National Basketball Association (NBA) Philippines Program wrapped up nearly two weeks ago, with eight boys and eight girls installed as the newest batch of Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA All-Stars.
Mostly from Manila, the Jr. NBA All-Stars are Kenji Trey Duremdes, 14, Jan Clement Macalalag, 13, and Victorino Torres, 13, of La Salle Greenhills; Joachim Eddie Laure of University of Santo Tomas High School; Johndel Austria, 13, of Escuela de Sophia-Caloocan; Ian Dominic Espinosa, 13, of Ateneo de Iloilo; Reinhard Jumanoy, 13, of University of San Carlos-North Campus; and Jeryk Dwight Bait, 14, of Saint Francis National High School in Lucena.
The girls selected as Jr. NBA All-Stars are Boni Marylene Solis, 12, Jane Araza, 13, and Jeehan Nikaela Ahmed, 13, of Chiang Kai Shek College; Jazmine Ann Maniquis, 13, of St. Paul Pasig; Lindsey Nacional, 13, of La Salle College Antipolo; Camille Nolasco, 14, of Miriam College; Chinnsai Demana, 13, of the University of the Visayas in Cebu and Graciey De Mesa, 13, from Lucena City National High School.
If you look closely, you’ll see two last names in the boys’ list that should have activated your Philippine Basketball Association radar. Kenji Duremdes and Joachim (Echo) Laure are, you guessed right, second generation basketball players. Kenji is the son of former Sunkist, Sta. Lucia, Alaska and Coca Cola player Kenneth Duremdes. Echo is the son of former Metropolitan Basketball Association and Philippine Basketball Associaton (PBA) player Eddie Laure, formerly active with the Batangas Blades and the Philippine Patriots, also of Shell, Purefoods, Alaska, Rain or Shine, Powerade, Blackwater and Mahindra in the PBA.
They join the scions of other PBA players who have successfully risen at the top of the class, so to speak, in the National Training Camp of the Jr. NBA. The National Training Camp is the third stage of the program that follows the school and open clinics and regional selection camps in key cities after a more or less four-month period. The last stage of the program is the NBA Experience, a trip to a foreign country where the All-Stars get to play with counterpart Jr. NBA All-Stars from Southeast Asia, go on city tours and watch an NBA game live.
Before Kenji and Echo, eight other Jr. NBA All-Stars were next-gen extensions of their basketball-playing fathers who brought back memories of their “old man’s” prowess on court. All the young players said their fathers were big influences on their desire and determination to play basketball. Their fathers coached them personally or provided them with basketball training that made sure the basketball genes were in full display. Do you want to meet them? Here goes:
- Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena. Sons of former University of the East hotshot, Bong Ravena, Kiefer and Thirdy joined the Jr. NBA in its very early days. Kiefer (2007) was one of the first Jr. NBA All-Stars, alongside contemporary Aljon Mariano, who now plays in the pros for Ginebra San Miguel. Kiefer, of course, tried out for the NBA D-League, but now plays for Alab Pilipinas. Thirdy followed his brother’s footsteps in 2011 and is now one of the go-to guys of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Both brothers have had stints with the national basketball team.
- Mark Javen Tallo. The son of former Pepsi Cola player Mark Anthony Tallo was a University Athletic Association of the Philippines rookie sensation in 2012 who played for La Salle after transferring from Ateneo. Then he returned to his native Cebu and did his basketball sorcery over there, winning championships and enjoying his role as the darling of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundations Inc. (CESAFI). Mac-Mac is now trying out for the D-League, determined to make basketball very much a part of his future. He was a Jr. NBA All-Star in 2009.
- Kobe Paras. The second son of the PBA’s only Rookie-MVP Benjie Paras, Kobe first joined the Jr. NBA program in 2010 alongside his brother Andrei. But it was in 2011 that he became a Jr. NBA All-Star. Gawky and a bit shy at the onset, Kobe blossomed into an explosive player, a Slam Dunk King and a dead serious baller who has set his sights on loftier goals : nothing less than the NBA. After playing for Creighton, Kobe is now headed for Cal State Northridge, a route that will place him in position for a real NBA career in the future.
- Arnie Padilla. Arnie is the son of Ronilo “Onie” Padilla, a former PBA (San Miguel), PBL (Hapee) and MBA (Pangasinan Presidents) big man. The former Magis Eagles star from Cebu spent several years in the States after staying in the Far Eastern University stable for a while. This 2012 Jr. NBA All-Star will see action this coming season with the Arellano Chiefs and will play under one of the Jr. NBA Philippines coaches, Jerry Codiñera.
- Basti Locsin. The son of The Tank, Noli Locsin can only be called Baby Tank. Basti became a Jr. NBA All-Star in 2015, a product of La Salle Green Hills and the Alaska Power Camp. He still plays for the Greenies, but one day in the near or far future, he says he’d like to play for Ginebra too, just like his Dad. Besides inheriting his father’s strength and sure footing, this little Tank is a sweet shooter as well.
- Isaiah “Ice” Hontiveros. The son of Dondon Hontiveros also plays for LSGH and became an All-Star in 2015. He describes himself as an all-around player who can play the 3, 4 and 5 positions. He acknowledges that his Dad is his biggest influence on his game. The elder Hontiveros reminds him of every little detail to improve his game: from stretching to sleeping early to going through all the drills it takes to hone his game.
- Kai Sotto. Kai was the biggest sensation of the 2016 Jr. NBA Program when, at 13 years old, he was selected as one of that year’s Jr. NBA All-Stars. At 13 he towered over everybody else at 6-foot-10. One year later he is already 6-foot-11 and still growing. Kai’s game was recently exposed on national TV when he helped power the Batang Gilas to a championship in the recently held Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) tournament. His father is former Coca Cola Tiger and Alaska Ace Ervin Sotto, who incidentally, is now officially 4 inches shorter than his son.
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