With the tournament officially kicking off last Sunday, the weeklong SM-NBTC (National Basketball Training Center) League National Finals 2018 will be culminated by a loaded all-star game come Friday that features the best in Philippine juniors’ basketball local fans has ever come across to date.
Batang Gilas Pilipinas standouts: Ateneo’s Kai Sotto and NU’s Terrence Fortea, and reigning UAAP and NCAA Juniors MVPs: CJ Cansino and Will Gozum, are all expected to show off their wares at the event, which might also serve as teasers to their possible Gilas showing and respective college debuts in the next year or two.
The 7’2” Sotto, who topped the eight-week Chooks To Go NBTC 23 High School Player Rankings, was present at the media launch last week, along with NBTC alumni Jeron Teng and Troy Rosario, sharing with the attendees their fondest memories and learnings from participating in NBTC League. “Kasi rookie lang ako last year pero mga kasama ko mga all-stars na; mga star players ng ibang teams,” said the 16-year-old son of former PBA center Ervin Sotto. “Marami akong natutunan sa NBTC dahil ‘yong training namin sa Ateneo, di pa pala natatapos sa UAAP, dahil may NBTC pala. Siyempre, sobrang sayang experience yung NBTC para sa ‘kin.”
To coincide with the Division One and Two championship main events on March 23, the all-star game between Coach Chris Gavina and Coach Topex Robinson’s picks will be entertaining the crowd through a competitive match between rising gems from different high schools in the country. The Team Gavina versus Team Robinson game can be seen live at the Mall of Asia Arena, with tickets at P20 to be sold there at the venue.
The star-studded game, of course, is only a sideshow to the 23-team bannered championships, which will have new and returning squads, including the recently crowned UAAP Juniors champion Ateneo De Manila, NCAA Juniors division titlist La Salle Greenhills, CESAFI king University of Visayas, and MMBL winner Chiang Kai Shek, and international teams from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand competing. Earning wild cards berths are the squads from National University, Mapua, Sacred Heart School-Ateneo De Cebu, San Beda College, UST, Letran, and Adamson, who all made podium finishes in their respective leagues.
Also taking part in this major tournament patterned after the NCAA tournament in the United States are teams from Cagayan De Oro, Cavite, Davao, Midsyap, Baguio, Roxas City, Calamba, Bataan, Bacolod, Ormoc, Dumaguete, Pagadian, Dagupan, San Fernando, Naga, and Lipa City. These provincial squads will be competing with teams from the National Capital Region for Division One and Two trophies.
Evidently bigger and better than its previous ten seasons, this year’s SM-NBTC Finals looks to be more serious in housing and developing the best in high school basketball by way of a more exciting tournament format and highly advanced facilities. “Every year that we have been organizing the tournament, we have refined it to what it is now—a premier showcase for high school basketball,” said SM-NBTC founder Eric Altamirano. “We have seen it grow from an initial few cities to over 70 cities all over the country. And it has also become a springboard for Fil-foreign teams to showcase their players who might want to study in the Philippines or play for the various national teams.”