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Meet the NCAA student-athletes of Smart Elite



In a bid to encourage the Filipino youth to cultivate a passion for sports, undisputed mobile leader Smart Communications named 10 outstanding players of the National College Athletics Association into its roster of sports ambassadors known as the “Smart Elite.”

Inducted into the prestigious group was NCAA 88 Finals MVP Baser Amer of SanBeda College, who is determined to help the Red Lions get its sixth straight Basketball championship this year, the league’s 91st season. Also named into the Smart Elite were Season 90 MVP Earl Scottie Thompson of University of Perpetual Help and Jiovani Jalalon of Arellano University. Amer, Thompson, and Jalalon were part of the Sinag Pilipinas team that won the gold medal for men’s basketball at the recent South East Asian Games in Singapore. Completing the group are Rey Nambatac of Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Jonathan Grey of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Francis Munsayac of Emilio Aguinaldo College, Tey Teodoro of Jose Rizal University, Joseph Gabayni of Lyceum of the Philippines University, Andretti Stevens of Mapua Institute of Technology, and Bradwyn Guinto of San Sebastian College.

In an event hosted by Smart Sports, together with Melmac Sports Management, Wednesday afternoon at Outback Steakhouse in Pasig City, the ten student-athletes were formally introduced to the public. Smart Sports senior manager Epok Quimpo told the members of the press present that for Smart Sports the goal is “to be able to share with you and to reach out to everyone, especially those who play in the NCAA and study in the NCAA schools, we have identified a group of elite athletes from the various schools to represent that Smart Life.”

Quimpo further added the criteria Smart looked into for selecting these distinct student-athletes. “Number one, we really look at the players who are outstanding and overachievers both in the court representing the school, and of course some of the players here represented the country already. Number two, we looked at them on their personalities and how they interact with the students and with their classmates in school,” the former Ateneo Blue Eagle added. “Hopefully at the end of the day not only in basketball, we’ll be able to identify Smart Elite ambassadors who can inspire other students and athletes, as well as serve as role models not only in athletics, but outside.”

For Amer, Jalalon, and Thompson, the opportunity to be able to represent the country and Smart is an indescribable feeling that they are fortunate to experience. “Okay naman, sobrang proud lang kami kasi kahit nasa Singapore kami, ang daming Pilipinong nagsusupport sa amin. Every game nandun sila. So feeling namin parang nasa Pilipinas pa rin kami,” Amer said. Moreover, the experience of being in a group of elite collegiate and professional players was a learning experience according to Jalalon. “Unang una sobrang saya namin sa Singapore kasi ang dami naming natutunan from Kiefer Ravena and kuya Marcus. Ang dami naming natutunang experience na magagamit sa NCAA.” Finally, it helped build a sense of brotherhood, not only to the team, but for the entire NCAA community as well according to NCAA Season 90 MVP Scottie Thompson. “Sa una siyempre kalaban namin sila sa court lang, pero off the court okay naman kami, magkaibigan. Lalo na nung nakasama ko sila sa Gilas, sobrang nakilala namin yung isa’t-isa.”

The pressure of being a role model to the Filipino youth is also something that these athletes take into responsibility. For Guinto, he feels the pressure but is ready to face the challenge of it. “A bit of pressure I guess. It’s manageable. Coach Rodney is helping us with the flexibility of our times and stuff. He’s understanding kasi player din siya,” the Stags big man said. Andretti Stevens, on the other hand, makes sure to control his emotions in the court because millions of Filipinos are watching him. “Sa basketball hindi maiiwasan yung physical game. Siguro more on control mo lang. Kung hindi naman kailagan, wag nalang.”

Finally, it takes great effort and skill for these student-athletes to balance academics and athletics. For Letran’s Rey Nambatac, he knows that basketball is not forever but what he learns in school will be with him for the rest of his life. “Yung studies namin siyempre focus din kami, lalo na sa school namin. We know na hindi pangmatagalan yung paglalaro ng basketball. Kailangan namin magstudy, para at least ‘pag nag pro kami at nag retire, pwede kami mag business or kung ano man na work after ng playing years namin.”

Epok Quimpo also emphasized that being an ambassador for Smart Sports would not hinder with the tight schedules of these student-athletes. “The first priority is their teams. Smart will support in terms of the other things that they can. We’ll probably invite them to some events, but we’ll make sure it won’t be in conflict with the teams. Smart will be here to support them but hindi namin sila gagalawin while the tournament is ongoing. Just so everyone knows, we just want to identify this group of young men for people to actually look at them. Ito talaga yung next generation of national, and hopefully international, athletes.”

You can catch the NCAA games wherever you are by using your mobile devices to view the official livestream at the ABS-CBN Sports site ( smart, along with PLDT Home, partnered with ABS-CBN for online live streaming of NCAA events to enable more Filipinos to live the “Smart Life” by using digital innovations to enjoy their passions more.

Smart is a staunch supporter of sports development in the Philippines. It is a major sponsor in this year’s NCAA, and has backed national teams like Gilas Pilipinas, Sinag Pilipinas, and the Azkals, as well as the activities of various sports organizations. Its chairman Manny V. Pangilinan is known as one of the country’s foremost sports patrons.

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