UAAP’s graduating class of 2021, of course, feels dismayed by the fact that their last playing year in high school is no more following the cancellation of Season 83.
Still, the young talents’ careers have only just begun. Many of them have already been pegged as certain contributors for whichever college they wind up committing to.
At the very top of that list is Batang Gilas stalwart and three-time champion Terrence Fortea, who will most definitely be missed by Nazareth School of National University and returning shot-caller Jeff Napa.
“Siyempre, malungkot talaga na hindi na matutuloy UAAP,” said Napa, who is also, at the moment, head coach of the Bulldogs.
“Nanghihinayang kami para sa mga players na graduating, lalo na kunwari si Terrence, kasi hindi na nila naipakita ‘yung talent nila.”
Fortea has long been a super-scorer for the Bullpups. He put up per game counts of 15.4 points, 2.6 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in Season 82. And he, Gerry Abadiano, Kevin Quiambao, and Carl Tamayo formed a juggernaut that crushed the competition en route to a perfect season.
The 5-foot-11 gunslinger has been on the radar of collegiate teams for quite some time now. National U, though, remains hopeful he stays in Sampaloc following his high school graduation.
Other Bullpups who may very well make waves in the next level include starters Harold Alarcon, Ernest Felicilda, and Reyland Torres; and raw projects Aaron Buenselida, Steve Nash Enriquez, and Echo Laure.
Ateneo High School, NU’s modern-day rival, can also boast of promising prospects who unfortunately will not have the exits from high school they will have wanted.
The difference is that both primetime playmaker Forthsky Padrigao and double-double machine Josh Lazaro have already committed to the Blue Eagles once the school year is over.
“It is very unfortunate that Season 83 has been cancelled. We do understand the reason behind it kasi health and safety talaga ang priority dapat sa ngayon,” said youthful mentor Reggie Varilla, referring to the continuing COVID-19 crisis that forced the UAAP to sit on the sidelines for the first time since World War II.
“We can’t help but feel a bit disappointed, most especially our graduating seniors. But wala naman tayong control over the situation kaya it is best to not dwell on it.”
In terms of room to grow, though, the student-athlete who has the most potential to make even more of a leap in college is Season 83 Boys MVP Jake Figueroa.
The 6-foot-2 workhorse posted a double-double average of 13.2 points and 13.1 rebounds to go along with 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks – all while carrying Adamson High School to its first Final Four under Mike Fermin.
“Of course, nalungkot talaga kami sa cancellation,” said Fermin, who has made a name for himself as an architect who rebuilds fallen programs.
“Lahat sila, excited na makalaro for Season 83 and try to improve sa third-place finish namin.”
Add sniper Matty Erolon, and the Baby Falcons can very well claim to have blue-chip recruits of their own.
For Fermin, hopefully, those two remain faithful to San Marcelino. As he put it, “Ang akin lang naman, sana, ang first option nila is Adamson.”
Meanwhile, the guard factory over at Far Eastern University-Diliman will be coming out with yet another promising line of products headlined by Penny Estacio.
The long-limbed, 5-foot-11 guard is a natural scorer who is only beginning to scratch the surface of how to set up his teammates. On the other hand, partner-in-crime Jorick Bautista is a sharpshooter who had already worn the flag.
The Baby Tamaraws also have hard-nosed defender Patrick Sleat as well as serviceable big Albert Libago as possible recruits for collegiate squads.
University of the Philippines Integrated School is no slouch as well when it comes to promising prospects coming out of high school, with Collin Dimaculangan, Jordi Gomez de Liano, and Ray Allen Torres.
Dimaculangan is a steady hand at point, while Torres lives up to his name as a deadshot from outside. Jordi Gomez de Liaño, meanwhile, looks to make the same sort of jump big brothers Javi and Juan did after their time as Junior Maroons.
Those three fell short of helping State U climb out of the cellar, but are nonetheless recruits to keep an eye on in the next level.
Also a recruit to keep an eye on is University of Santo Tomas offensive off-guard Jacob Cortez, the son of De La Salle University legend and PBA veteran Mike.