By Rafael Bandayrel
Sacramento Kings starting center Willie Cauley-Stein and WNBA Hall-of-Famer Sheryl Swoopes visited the Philippines to witness the country’s young hoopers for the 2018 Jr. NBA national training camp Sunday at the Mall of Asia Music Hall.
Cauley-Stein and Swoopes taught the teenage cagers the fundamental values of basketball. After working with the kids and coaches, Stein said he is impressed with what he saw.
“It’s been great working with these kids, the coaches, and everybody who bring this all together, make sure things run real smooth. I was really blessed to come out here and be graced by your culture,” the seven-footer said.
Prince Ray Alao of San Beda University was selected as the Most Valuable Player for the boys. He is joined by Nathan Jan Jundana, Ethan Rod Alian, John Lester Amaga, Christian Joi Mesias, Kim Aaron Tamayo, Rhon Khaniel Telles and Seven Gagate to form the All-Star team.
Pauline Angelique Valle of Misamis Oriental General Comprehensive High School was hailed MVP for the girls. Valle, along with Kyla Marie Mataga, Arriane Esquivel, Christine Nicholle Venterez, Madelyn Flores, Aishe Solis, Gin Kyla Rellequtte and Marielle Vingno make up the All-Star roster for the girls.
The All-Star squads will head to Shanghai, China in October for the NBA China Games which will feature Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers against Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks.
“Events like these are pretty interesting because we are able to find diamonds in the rough,” said NBA Philippines Associate Vice President Carlo Singson.
Filipinos basketball stars Aljon Mariano, Kobe Paras, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Ricci Rivero, and Kai Sotto are some of the notable alumni of the Jr. NBA program.
And while not every participant will go to Shanghai for the China Games, Alaska Associate Brand Manager Diane Guerta believes the event succeeded in more ways than one.
“The players have been close and they’ve been through a lot during the program. We’re not just teaching them [basketball] but we’re also teaching them to have a good relationship with each other,” said Guerta.
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