The NBA Café was the venue for this year’s Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA All-Stars to meet the press before they set off on the trip of a lifetime. Chosen following months of hard work that began with January’s tip-off, followed by a regional selection, national training camp, and culminating tournament, the 10 boys and 5 girls chosen from over 20, 000 hopefuls were on hand to meet the press.
As announced in April, the Jr. NBA All-Stars were Harold Alarcon, Isaiah Miguel Blanco, Tracy Carl Dadang, Ric Ozner Gatuz, Julian Alfonso Jugo, Andrei Philip Lechoncito, Jearico Nuñez, Miguel Roy Luis Tan, Fritz Felix Valencia, and Jr. NBA MVP Kai Sotto. Representing the Jr. WNBA were Rozie Amatong, Aloha Marie Betanio, Ma. Cecilia Quilenderino, Carly Monreal, along with their MVP, Florence Jill Talas.
Over the next four days, the All-Stars will be taking part in the culminating activity they worked hard to reach: a trip to Shanghai, China, where they will learn from NBA coaches, meet NBA Legends, and watch actual NBA teams face off in a Global Game. For many of the young athletes, it will be their first time in China, if not abroad altogether, and their sense of excitement and unity was readily apparent.
The All-Stars displayed a camaraderie borne of familiarity; since being selected as back in April, the All-Stars have kept in touch, and all seemed amazed at being in the media spotlight. Then again, there aren’t many people who can say they went overseas to represent their country alongside fellow athletes from Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and (newly-added) Singapore.
Coach Jeff Cariaso congratulated the All-Stars on their having made it this far, saying, “You guys are going to be a part of something very special…When you’re there, enjoy and really make the most of the experience. I know you’re going to be practicing on Saturday, I know you’re going to work hard and do your best. You’re going to make us all proud, make your parents proud.”
In addition to gathered media and parents, the Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA Coaches of the Year who will be accompanying the All-Stars, were on hand in the forms of Cholo Elegino and Ewon Arayi.
Recently returned from Malaysia as a member of the SEABA championship-winning Perlas Pilipinas, Arayi described the experience of meeting all the young athletes and guiding them as one that she will treasure forever, and looked forward to the chance to learn from coaches from other countries.
Coach Cholo, on the other hand couldn’t believe the trip was actually happening, sharing his excitement at the chance to watch an actual NBA game, Sunday’s Global Game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets, in the flesh, as opposed to on TV.
When all was said and done, whether they were Coaches of the Year or All-Stars, it seemed that Cariaso’s description of the Global Game could just as easily been referring to the trip as a whole when he said it would be, “an experience you’ll never forget.”
For all the hard work, and many more successes ahead, congratulations to all the 2016 All-Stars and Coaches of the Year!