Baldwin sees 'very, very bright future' for Gilas prospect Lebron Lopez

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2021 06:01 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2021 06:41 PM

Baldwin sees 'very, very bright future' for Gilas prospect Lebron Lopez 1
Ateneo forward Francis "Lebron" Lopez. UAAP Media

MANILA, Philippines -- The youngest player in the Gilas Pilipinas bubble in Calamba, Laguna is perhaps their most interesting prospect as well.

Only 18 years old, Francis "Lebron" Lopez joined the national team's training camp at the Inspire Sports Academy earlier this month, together with several other young players including incoming college freshmen like RJ Abarrientos of Far Eastern University and Carl Tamayo of the University of the Philippines.

Lopez, who stands at 6-foot-5, barged into the scene in UAAP Season 82 with a breakout campaign for Ateneo de Manila High School after transferring from La Salle Greenhills. He averaged 16.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game, while putting together a highlight reel of dunks and rejections.

"I think people are pretty accurate in their assessment. He is an outstanding athlete," Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin said of Lopez during an appearance on "The Game," Tuesday night.

Lopez, with his superb athleticism, fits the physical profile of the Gilas Pilipinas player that Baldwin is looking for. 

"Long arms, athletic guy, and very, very active. A lot of energy," Baldwin said.

But Lopez, who made the Mythical Team in Season 82, is still just a teenager and has plenty of room to grow as a player. Baldwin stressed that for all his talent and physical skills, Lopez "has a lot to learn about the concepts of the game, and you know, understanding the nuances of execution."

Already, Lopez has shown great willingness to be coached and to learn, Baldwin also said. 

"Just a great kid, and really, really willing to learn, and always attentive when the coaches are talking to him, and always competitive when it's time to play," he added.

"So he has a very, very bright future," Baldwin stressed.

It remains to be seen when Lopez can play UAAP basketball again, as the league cancelled its 83rd season and amateur sports have yet to be green-lighted by the government. Lopez still has two seasons of eligibility left in the UAAP juniors division.

In the meantime, he is "in a great situation in the Gilas bubble," where he can continue to improve his game while learning from Baldwin and some of the top coaches in the country. 

"He gets along really well with the other players, but there's a humility to the kid, too," said Baldwin. "(There's an) understanding that he's the youngest. 

"He doesn't try to big-shot anybody, because he has a big name and he has a big following. He doesn't act like that at all, so I really appreciate the kid, he's doing a great job," he added.

In September 2020, Lopez decided to stay in the Philippines and continue his high school education, after originally deciding to train in the United States via the same agency that handles Kai Sotto.

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