Kevin Quiambao has been a revelation for Gilas Pilipinas Men over the past month.
And it’s not because of his low-post moves, nor his sweet one-handed stroke. The 6-foot-4 converted forward has dazzled with his passing ability.
Though a surprise to many, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes bared that Quiambao has long found himself in the radar of the national team program. In fact, they already had his eyes on him when he was building the 23-for-2023 cadets program.
“You have to remember that a lot of the players in this time were identified as early as 2017 when we came out with the 23 for 2023 list. Kevin Quiambao has always been on our radar.
“It was just a matter of activating and calling on the guys who were available in that original list that we have. It’s not a fixed list. It’s a live thing, a work in progress,” he said.
“Every time there are opportunities, there are windows or tournaments, we find out who is available. We’ve always wanted to get a chance to test Kevin. There were other guys who weren’t available like Balti. That gives an opportunity to Kevin. I know he is a surprise to a lot but he’s always been on the radar of the Gilas coaches,” he continued.
Quiambao was not a part of the 23-for-2023 list.
Since 2017, Quiambao has made a name for himself, winning the UAAP Season 82 Boys’ Basketball MVP honor. He also got a call up to play for Gilas 3×3 during the 2019 FIBA 3×3 Under-18 Asia Cup.
Last year, Tab Baldwin called up Quiambao and Raven Cortez to join Gilas but De La Salle University did not allow him back then.
Now cleared, the 21-year-old utility forward made sure to leave his mark.
During the third window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, Quiambao averaged 5.0 points and 3.0 assists per game.
So far in the Asia Cup, Quiambao is averaging 3.0 points and a team-high 6.5 assists per game. And this includes a nine-assist outing during Gilas’ 101-59 win over India’s Young Cagers.
And Thirdy Ravena said that it has been a pleasure playing alongside a rare gem like Quiambao.
“I love being with him on the court. It’s not every day that you can come across such an intelligent and aggressive passer in Kevin. So, just being inside makes me focus more on getting to my spots because when the defense reacts to whatever our offense does and he has the ball, he will most likely spot that in an instant,” said Ravena, who had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting against India.
“Being with a guy like him inside the court makes life so much easier. Distributing the ball in a big man’s position is a bit rare in our game nowadays. So, it was very fortunate to have him and I’m proud of what he is doing. Proud that he brought his strengths in high school to the international game. It will only get better for here.”
Though Reyes said that sometimes Quiambao tries to thread even the tiniest of needles at times, he won’t stop him from being who he is. Even when they go up against the Tall Blacks on Sunday, he just wants his all-around forward to be his own man.
After all, it is his passing that made him one of the elite prospects the country has today.
“It wasn’t meant only for this game but that’s really a strength in Kevin’s game. He showed it since the first time he joined this team. He just now has to pick his spots. There were times during the last game that the openings weren’t there and he was still trying to force those passes,” added Reyes.
“Against New Zealand, it’s going to be different but we don’t want to take that away from him. It’s his strength and it’s a luxury to have such a good passer in that position. It wasn’t anything consciously that we wanted him to do for this game. It was just us allowing him to play into his strengths.”
Highlights of the games will also be on SMART Sports.