Like his signature chase down blocks and dunks, the announcement of Cholo Anonuevo’s partnership with East West Private came out of nowhere. He had barely been talked about as a future cornerstone of Gilas teams, yet here he was making the jump from the Philippines to train in the United States.

Reactions were mixed. There was obvious excitement, but you could also sense some confusion around Philippine Basketball circles. They weren’t questioning why Anonuevo made the jump. Most of them simply didn’t know who Anonuevo was. It’s actually not that surprising considering the circumstances he had to face in the UAAP Juniors Division.

Let’s get to know him a bit better.

Who is Cholo Anonuevo?

Anonuevo played as a combo forward for the FEU Baby Tamaraws. He flew under the radar because 1) He played in a team led by elite guard Penny Estacio, and 2) the UAAP Juniors Division was filled with plenty of elite forwards/bigs, arguably the deepest set of players in that position in years. How deep?

The league’s MVP, Jake Figueroa of the Adamson Baby Falcons, was arguably not even the best player in the entire league last Season 82. That title belongs to one of the NU Bullpups’ bigs, Kevin Quiambao, or Carl Tamayo. Aside from the duo, Mythical Five members LeBron Lopez and Joshua Lazaro of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets were also part of this recent high school class.

So, given that these other players were more highly touted, does that mean Anonuevo was undeserving of this opportunity abroad from East West Private? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, his under the radar status is what makes him such an intriguing prospect in the first place. He didn’t have the pedigree of Quiambao and Tamayo, nor the National Team credentials of Lopez and Lazaro. He does have one thing that’s arguably top of his class beside Lopez: upside.

He may have not been a Mythical Five member, but Anonuevo’s work inside the court turned plenty of heads. He was a MONSTER athlete who served as the perfect running mate beside the ball-dominant Estacio. He didn’t need the rock to contribute. Anonuevo was comfortable playing the pick and roll or cutting to open spots for athletic finishes. On the other end of the floor, he was a hyperactive defender who could defend all five positions thanks to his physical tools and feel for the game. He’s a low maintenance player who provided enormous returns for the Baby Tamaraws.

Low maintenance. Enormous returns. Every time you doubt why Anonuevo should be highly touted, remember this. It’s an underrated quality that a lot of coaches actually appreciate out of their players.

In an era of isolation, pick and roll, and ball-dominant guards, players like Anonuevo are few and far between. But they matter because they make life so much easier for your primary options and as a result, your entire team. They won’t grumble any time they don’t get the ball, nor will they desire an uptick in playing time because they’re a star. Anonuevo is not that kind of player. He simply gets the job done. He’s the type of player you want if you’re building a good basketball team.

Also fueling his low maintenance quality is how malleable he is as a player. He has the height to play as a big in small-ball lineups, but he also has the quickness to play guard. His skills are getting there too. He’s a respectable shooter and his handle has developed. Skills + his natural physical gifts = a potentially deadly combination in the long run.

Is the NBA dream realistic?

Attached in that announcement of Anonuevo’s move with East West Private was his plans of chasing his NBA dream. It’s one thing to plan something but it’s another thing to actually make it happen. The big question is, can Anonuevo actually become an NBA player this decade?

There’s plenty of work to be done for Cholo if he wants to make it to the NBA. For one, he needs to completely slide down to the guard spots for the NBA dream to be possible. He stands at 6’4”, which isn’t bad size by any means, but it isn’t enough to play his natural forward position in the States. His athleticism can only do so much against the athletic freaks of the NBA.

Learning to play guard means he must polish up his skills. As talented and physically-gifted as he is, Cholo is also incredibly raw. He’s only a respectable shooter. To make it to the NBA as a guard, it would be better if he at least turned into a good shooter. That means improving efficiency and depth of creativity in shooting the basketball. He can’t just shoot off the catch; he also needs to learn how to create off the dribble. It is of utmost importance in today’s NBA.

Given his current state as a basketball player, it’s easy to dismiss Anonuevo’s NBA dream as unrealistic. But let’s look at it from another direction by using this adjective; intriguing.

Anonuevo is filled with otherworldly potential as evidenced by his stint with the FEU Baby Tamaraws. The good thing is, we’ve seen flashes of brilliance that good be spilled over to his training in the States. He’s shown a high basketball IQ with his forays as an off-ball menace, while his motor is elite as he’s shown on the defensive end. There is substance to this piece of coal East West Private hopes to turn into a diamond.

The pressure is on for Anonuevo as he has been introduced as the next player to watch out for in Philippine Basketball. Time will tell whether he becomes the Beast Incarnate the country hopes he becomes in the long run.