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Jr NBA names country’s top 10 young players

By Raymond V. Vidal | May. 05, 2013 at 12:01am
The future of any sport is the youth and for ten lucky youngsters the future is now. The nationwide search for the top 10 best young basketball players of the Philippines culminated when the members of the Jr. NBA Team presented by Alaska Milk were named at the SM Mall of Asia recently.

Seven boys from Manila, one from General Santos, one from Pampanga and one from Davao were adjudged the best of the best and chosen the members the Jr. NBA Philippines 2013 presented by Alaska.

Christian Tyler Tio, center, is named the Alaska Ambassador of Goodwill. Beside him are, from right: PBA legend Jojo Lastimosa, Alaska Vice President for Marketing Blen Fernando, Muggsy Bogues and E. Cow.

Now on its sixth year the program has captured the imagination of a nation enamored with the sport of basketball.

Named to the squad are Ricci Paolo Rivero, Marvin Sario, Vince Jansel Ferrer, Samuel Abujihleh, Gian Robert Mamuyac, Christian Tyler Tio, Miguel Alejandro Fortuna of Manila, Pawandeep Singh of Pampanga, Mahloney Tarranza of Davao and Anthony Sistoza of General Santos City.

Members of this new batch of Jr. NBA All Stars will be rewarded with an authentic National Basketball Association experience -- of watching an NBA pre-season game live and interacting with its players afterwards and the opportunity to play against a counterpart Jr. NBA team abroad.

Additionally Tio was named the Alaska Ambassador of Goodwill. He was born in San Fernando, La Union and says he has Ilocano roots.  He expressed his gratitude for the honor earned this weekend.

“I feel thankful and blessed by God, for this opportunity to be a member of the Jr. NBA team and also being named the Alaska Ambassador of Goodwill. I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am very thankful. The biggest challenge of the past few days was the stress of training and being far away from my family,” said Tio.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas embraces Muggsy Bogues during the latter’s visit in the final day of the four-day camp of the Jr. NBA presented by Alaska as it concludes its nationwide search for the country’s best young players.

The youngsters who were chosen are aged 13 and 14 and are the best basketball players in the three-day boot camp of the country’s best 50 players who were selected in the four-month long search in the Regional Selection Camps held in Dagupan, Davao, Lucena, Metro Manila and the Alaska Power Camp in March and early April.

This year’s National Training Camp was the best managed camp in the six years of the Jr. NBA in the Philippines with former NBA star Muggsy Bogues, Senior Director for Basketball Operations of NBA Asia Sefu Bernard and PBA legend Jojo Lastimosa joining hands. They were joined by coaches from the key cities who were candidates for Jr. NBA Coach of the Year.

Unassuming Raymon Mercader of Quezon, Bukidnon -- who was about as tall as Bogues himself -- was selected as the 2013 Jr. NBA Coach of the Year by presenting partner Alaska. He was chose for helping grow the sport of basketball in the Philippines while promoting the Jr. NBA STAR values of Sportsmanship, Teamwork, a positive Attitude and Respect to other young basketball athletes.

There were plenty of accolades to spread around and players were cited for their accomplishments in the National Training Camp. Allane Barles of Bulacan was given the Rexona Master Sportsmanship Award. Lorenz Viajar of Agusan del Norte was bestowed the Gatorade Hustle Award. Miguel Ratuiste of Quezon Province took home the BTV Rising STAR Award. Anthony Sistoza of General Santos City was chosen the Phoenix Petroleum All Star Player of the Game and of course Tio, the 2013 Alaska Ambassador. Most Valuable Player of the 2013 Jr. NBA Philippines presented by Alaska was Rivero, also of Manila.

Another highlight of this year’s National Training Camp was the first ever Jr. NBA Alumni All Star Game (see related story) starring Jr. NBA alumni from 2007 to 2012. Team Muggsy Bogues won that contest over Team Jolas.

ALL HANDS ON DECK! The surviving players go all out as they compete for the top 10 slots who will be named the 2013 Jr. NBA presented by Alaska team members. Here they join hands as they get last minute pep talk from former NBA player and now coach Sefu Bernard.

The camp, held in SM Mall of Asia was sponsored by Gatorade, Phoenix Petroleum, Rexona and Master. Present at the awarding ceremonies was US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. who spoke in halting Tagalog to express his gratitude for the opportunity to visit the country, meet and get to know Filipinos who have become friends and learn the deep and abiding love of Filipinos for the sport of basketball. He says this common love of the sport makes Filipinos and Americans kindred spirits.

The youth is certainly the future of any sport. The nationwide search for the top 10 best young basketball players of the Philippines culminated when the members of the Jr. NBA team presented by Alaska Milk were named at the SM Mall of Asia.

The Jr. NBA program is fast becoming an institution with more and more Filipino youngsters becoming better at the sport. More significant perhaps is that more and more Filipino youngsters are nurturing bigger dreams which probably includes not just becoming national players but potentially international basketball stars who will one day play in the NBA.
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