MANILA, Philippines -- High-flying teenager Francis "Lebron" Lopez has decided to put his planned overseas training on hold, and will instead stay in Ateneo de Manila University where he will continue his high school studies.
Lopez, a 6-foot-5 forward, was initially set to train in the United States after signing with East West Private in August. The same outfit represents NBA G-League bound Kai Sotto as well as Far Eastern University-Diliman standout Cholo Anonuevo.
However, the 16-year-old Lopez has made the decision, together with his family, to stay in the Philippines for now.
"My whole family taught me the importance of education," said Lopez, who earned a Mythical Team selection in Season 82, his first year as a Blue Eaglet. "I want to get my Ateneo diploma, and I will work hard for it."
Lopez averaged 16.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in Season 82, helping Ateneo reach the Final 4.
He still has two seasons of high school basketball left to play, where he is expected to team up with ace guard Forthsky Padrigao and fellow Mythical Team member Joshua Lazaro.
"I will continue to aspire to be the best basketball player that I can be," said Lopez. "I'm sure Ateneo has a plan, and will help me achieve that."
"Wala pong substitute ang magandang education, because I believe that for me to be able to be the best, I need that most important aspect -- intelligence," he stressed.
His aunt Leonila and uncle Felipe hailed Lopez's decision and vowed to continue to guide the teenage player.
"Our prayer po ay patuloy siyang gabayan and that he will finish school and be successful," said Felipe. "Project ko po 'yan sa kanilang magkakapatid."