MANILA, Philippines – While all eyes were on the towering Kai Sotto in Batang Gilas' stint in the 2017 SEABA Under-16 Championship, it was another promising player who stole the show in the Filipino kids' first game of the tournament.
Point guard Rence "Forthsky" Padrigao was impressive in his debut for Batang Gilas, scoring 14 points on top of three rebounds, six assists, and four steals. While he struggled from the field, making only five of 12 shots, his remarkable playmaking drew oohs-and-aahs from the crowd at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
He was eventually named Player of the Game in Batang Gilas' 108-42 rout of Singapore to open their campaign.
"Naging very easy sa akin ang pagko-coach, dahil siya ang nag-direct ng offense namin kanina [It was very easy for me to coach, because he directed our offense]," Batang Gilas coach Michael Oliver said of the 15-year-old Padrigao.
"I had a good game kasi nadala ko po 'yung team ko sa offense and defense na sinasabi po ni Coach Michael," said Padrigao. "Sana, magtuloy-tuloy poi to hanggang matapos 'yung SEABA, at hanggang umabot po tayo ng FIBA Asia."
[I had a good game because I was able to lead my team on both offense and defense, like what Coach Michael asked me to do. I hope this continues all throughout the tournament, and until the FIBA Asia.]
Padrigao was a little-used point guard in Adamson University's ill-fated campaign in the UAAP Season 79 juniors basketball tournament, and has since transferred to Ateneo High School.
Given the chance to finally display his considerable talent, Padrigao was quick to seize the opportunity.
"Sino-showcase ko lang kung ano ang meron sa akin," he said. "Ine-express ko lang 'yung nasa loob ko."
[I am just showcasing what I can do and expressing myself.]
Describing himself as a "court general," Padrigao quickly formed a good tandem with the 6-foot-11 Sotto, ably running pick-and-roll plays with the lanky big man while also proving to be a creative passer in transition.
"Confident ako kay Kai," said Padrigao. "Beside sa height niya, 'pag pinasahan siya, alam naman natin magfi-finish niya 'yung mga pasa ko sa kanya, kasi mas malapit nga siya sa ring. Mas maganda 'yun kasi mas nodo-dominate pa natin ang mga rebounds."
[I'm confident about Kai. With his height, he can easily finish passes and we can dominate the rebounds because of him.]
Though he was the most impressive – and most entertaining – player on the floor for Batang Gilas on Sunday, Padrigao is the first to say that he has plenty to work on in his game.
"Marami pa," he insists. "Shooting, depensa – 'yun 'yung kailangan ko pang i-improve."
[I still have a lot to work on, like shooting and defense.]
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