Team Hustle’s SJ Moore shone the brightest among the stars in the showcase of the future of Philippine basketball after he was awarded the Most Outstanding Player of the Under Armour-NBTC All-Star Game on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Moore put on a display of his hops with several rim-rattling dunks en route to a 19-point outing in his side’s 108-91 victory against Team Heart.
For the Arellano standout, it was all about showcasing his skills in the showpiece of the biggest grassroots event backed by Smart, SM, Strong Realty and Development Corp., Under Armour, and Molten.
“For me, it was about being the top player among the 24 best,” said Moore, who was ranked 15th in the 2023 NBTC 24 annual rankings of the best HS players in the Philippines. “Especially getting a chance to play with all the best NCAA juniors (players), I’m lucky to be chosen as the best player.”
Team Hustle wrested control in the first quarter, courtesy of 10 markers from Moore. Their margin then widened to as much as 18 late in the second period, as they brought a 55-39 advantage into the intermission.
In the second half, Team Hustle remained firmly in control, seeing their lead balloon to as much as 25, 86-61, late in the third period. True to their name, Team Heart tried to fight back and bridged the gap to as close as 12, 88-100, but only 1:20 remained to alter the final result.
Kieffer Alas of De La Salle Zobel supplied 14 markers, while NCAA 98 Juniors Finals MVP Andy Gemao dropped 13, most of them from slam dunks.
On the other side, San Beda’s Chris Hubilla top-scored for Team Heart with 27 points.
La Salle women’s basketball head coach Cholo Villanueva coached Team Hustle, while ex-CSB mentor TY Tang called the shots for Team Heart.
“For me, it’s a great experience being a coach. You want to be honing the next generation of basketball players and being a part of this event is really a privilege for me,” said Villanueva.
In the side events, Winnipeg’s Lorence Dela Cruz edged Fil-Nation Select’s Caelum Harris to be crowned as Slam Dunk king. The 5-foot-9 guard vaulted to pole position thanks to a one-handed windmill slam he caught from a self-made bounce pass. That netted him a perfect score of 50 from judges that included TNT Tropang Giga’s Mikey Williams, Glenn Khobuntin, and import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
To seal the deal, Dela Cruz then launched himself for a two-handed 360-degree dunk.
Meanwhile, Batang Tiaong’s John Rex Villanueva outpointed seven other participants in the Three-Point Shootout after nailing 15 from downtown, three more than Saint Jude Catholic School’s Kobe Chong, who had 11 in the final round.
On the other hand, Ateneo’s Kristian Porter bested Batang Tiaong’s Vhoris Marasigan in the closing round of the Skills Challenge after finishing the course that combined passing, finishing, and shooting in 22.2 seconds.
The biggest grassroots event also supported by Tecno, Regent, Rebisco, Jollibee, San Miguel Corp., Maynilad, Rebel Sports Pilipinas, MNL Kingpin, Gatorade, Swish App by NBN23, Victory Liner, Jasper Jean, Darlington, Exped, Mr. Freeze, Coach E Basketball School, Lighthouse Events, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas continues today with the Division 2 and 1 Finals.
All games will be livestreamed on Facebook on the NBTC, Smart Sports, and Puso Pilipinas pages.