The UAAP Juniors Division is within us once again. Unlike past iterations, however, the UAAP decided to move the annual juniors tournament to the second semester (probably because of the Batang Gilas U17 and U18 teams having FIBA competitions during the first semester.)
Now, along with the UAAP Juniors Basketball Season fast approaching, basketball fans now have one question in their mind;
Who are the next blue chip recruits in the High School ranks today?
To answer this question, HumbleBola got Matthew Nieto of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets and Batang Gilas U17 to help provide scouting reports of the players who basketball fans should watch out for this season.
Let’s get it started!
P.S: This list is ordered according to the POSITIONS of the players. Basically, it’s like a Mythical Five of sorts.
1. Matthew Nieto, Ateneo Blue Eaglets, PG
Too often do we see players who play combo guard because they’re too small yet they want to score as if they were Kevin Durant. With Matt, you’re not going to get any of that.
Here’s the thing with the smaller Nieto; he’s really good in LOTS of things, but every time you mention him, the first thing that will come into your mind is his penchant for play making. However, what are these LOTS of things which he does so well, you may ask?
Well, he can score. Real easy. He has an ever improving jumper which has turned from “not bad” to “deadly” after two seasons in the UAAP Juniors Division. Also, the guy can rebound pretty damn well for a guy his size (5’11 if I’m not mistaken). Last, and most importantly, he is a lock down defender. Butt down, shuffling his feet, giving the opposing star HELL, yep, expect him to do that this season. A LOT.
2. Jolo Mendoza, Ateneo Blue Eaglets, SG
The revelation of the FIBA U17 World Championships for Team Philippines, Jolo was born to do one thing; and that’s to score. A LOT. How good is he? During the Filoil Flying V Tournament this summer, he scored 36 POINTS in 36 MINUTES, on 22 attempts (11/22 FG overall, 9/13 from the line). Also, according to an article by the Philippine Star, Jolo was a player that Coach Chot Reyes wanted to be in the Gilas Cadet Pool. A 16-year-old, who is only about to go to his junior prom, was a player that could be in the Gilas Cadet Pool. HE IS THAT GOOD.
Jolo is a scorer through and through, possessing a jump shot you would die for. He’s not the Kiefer Ravena type who barrels his way into the rim with his athleticism and strength. He’s the type who’s smooth and chill with the way he plays. He simply lets the offense flow (As Matt states, the offense of the Eaglets does run among him, Jolo and his twin brother, Mike), and works through screens to get good looks for his jumper.
Despite his scoring prowess, he is still a very capable defender, and his ball handling and play making skills are a work in progress. Every time he steps in the court, expect defenders to keep their eye on him, because after all, according to Jolo himself, #joloisgold.
3. Mike Nieto, Ateneo Blue Eaglets, PF/C
“Kaya siya naging team captain namin, kasi yung charisma niya sobrang taas. Kaya niya dalhin yung team, kaya niya buhatin.” That statement from Matt pretty much sums up how Mike is.
In Batang Gilas, he was the equivalent of Marc Pingris in the Gilas Pilipinas Seniors Team. PUSO. Standing at 6’2, Mike isn’t a big man by any standard. Yet, that’s exactly the main complaint that people have with him; he plays big even though he isn’t supposed to be big. He’s a monster rebounder, using his heft and smarts to grab the rebound over his bigger counterparts. Despite that, however, he has been working on his perimeter game. His handles have DEFINITELY improved from two years ago, showing the ability to bring the ball down. At the same time, his jumper has become more consistent.
In college, expect Mike to transition to the 2 or 3 position, but for this season, expect him to be a force down low who will take the occasional jumper or drive.
4. Brandrey Bienes, FEU Baby Tamaraws, C
I’ll be really honest; among the 5 players in this list, Bienes is the only one who I haven’t watched any clips off. For the report and the placement of him in the list of Players To Watch Out For, I had to trust Matt’s judgment of the fourth year standout from FEU.
The Blue Eaglet described the Batang Gilas U18 member with one sentence, “He’s unlike Dyke (more on him later). Para siyang Kris Porter, bangga bangga lang.” Given this, it’s pretty obvious that Bienes is the type center who is a solid low post option. At the same time, he is able to gobble up rebounds using his size (he’s around 6’4 – 6’5). Expect Bienes to be the centerpiece of a very potent FEU offense that has multiple weapons such has Wendell Comboy and Marvin Lee.
5. Mark Dyke, NU Bulldogs, C
Among Ateneans, there were two players which really stuck into their minds after Game 1 of the Finals against NU. The other is actually a schoolmate of theirs (Hubert Cani) while the other, is Mark Dyke.
Dyke is somewhat similar to Mike Nieto. Both are undersized for their positions (he’s somewhat the same height as Big Mike), and both of them are rebounding machines. The differences? Well (not to take anything away from Mike, he is still a beast), Dyke is stronger. He’s arguably the most muscular player in the Juniors Division today, and along with his strength is his attitude. He is CRAZY hardworking. “Para siyang basurero. Lahat ng rebounds sa kanya. Lahat ng misses ng team kinukuha niya. Malakas talaga. Mamaw,” the smaller Nieto shares. Also, Dyke doesn’t really have the same offensive repertoire that the Batang Gilas U17 center has. What he lacks in polish, he makes up for in efficiency. When he gets the ball in the paint, it’s pretty much a sure basket. He is that darned strong.
Dyke is arguably the early favorite to win the MVP this season in the Juniors Division. In an NU team that lost some of its biggest stars, Dyke will be the centerpiece of the Bullpups on both ends of the floor.
Other Players to Take Note Of
- Aljun Melecio, La Salle – The La Salle equivalent of Jolo Mendoza, sure to replace the offensive output which La Salle lost from Renzo Subido
- Chris Fajarito, FEU – A rebounding machine, perfectly complements Bienes’ smooth game, is a double double threat
- Wendell Comboy, FEU – Is an all around threat; can score, rebound and distribute the rack