By Jerome Lagunzad
Powerhouse La Salle and two other fellow UAAP members have already expressed their desire to acquire the services of graduating San Beda guard Evan Nelle, considered by many as the finest cager in the high school ranks today.
National University and Adamson are also reportedly keen on having the 5-foot-10 Nelle, 19, in their fold since the Bulldogs and the Soaring Falcons both have lost key playmakers – skipper Jay Alejandro and Rob Manalang – to graduation, leaving a big dent on their respective backcourt rotations.
But Nelle, fresh from steering the Red Cubs to a second title in the 6th Philippine Basketball Secondary Schools Championships at the expense of Chiang Kai Shek College last week, is still biding his time.
“I haven’t committed to any team yet,” said the scrawny playmaker who was also named as the tournament MVP for the first time, perhaps his fitting sendoff following a decorated high school career.
Nelle, who was also adjudged the Finals MVP in 2015 when he powered the Red Cubs to a seven-peat romp at the expense of archrival Letran, added that where he will fit best remains as the biggest factor in his much-awaited decision.
“Tinitignan ko kung saan ako magbe-best fit. Kung saan ko pwede maipapakita ‘yung playing style ko. The coaches, the culture, ‘yun rin ang mag kino-consider ko. But at the end of the day, kung saan ako magpi-fit talaga,” he said.
Blue Dragons star John Galinato, deemed as the most efficient scorer in the secondary division, is also getting a lot of suitors too. But the promising 5-foot-11 Cebuano gunner is eager to make himself better before making the big jump.
“Focus lang muna ako na makatapos muna sa Chiang Kai then mag-improve pa sa skills ko. Marami pa akong kailangan i-polish like ‘yung end-game (poise), ‘yung tibay ng loob tsaka ‘yung on-ball defense and court awareness,” he said.
However, Nelle appears to be the most coveted jewel in the off-season. Although the Red Cubs failed in their bid to regain the crown in the 93rd NCAA juniors tiff, he continued his fine play underscored by his averages of 14.2 points, league-leading 6.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Leading San Beda back on top in what he considers as the “Champions League” among top UAAP, NCAA and CESAFI teams is also enough for Nelle to gain more confidence ahead of the bigger—and tougher—battles ahead.