MANILA, Philippines -- Young Ateneo de Manila University guard Forthsky Padrigao downplayed expectations that he is set to be the next player to shine as a floor general for the Blue Eagles.
Padrigao committed to play for Ateneo in college, despite still having one more year of high school basketball to play. When he moves up to the senior team, Padrigao will be mentored by SJ Belangel, another former Eaglet who has since made his mark in the collegiate level.
Belangel, in turn, was mentored by Matt Nieto, who was the starting point guard for the Ateneo teams that won three consecutive UAAP championships. Padrigao, who never got a chance to play with either Nieto nor Belangel in high school, kept a close watch on them during the UAAP Season 82 tournament.
"For me kasi, I've worked with Kuya SJ na and last season, ang pinapanood kong point guard talaga is Kuya Matt and si Kuya SJ," said Padrigao.
"For you guys to tell me na I'm next in line, tingin ko I'm still far from that," he added. "I mean, I haven't played a single game in the college division, neither summer leagues or UAAP."
Padrigao was a Mythical Team member in Season 81, and averaged 17.2 points, 4.13 rebounds, 4.13 assists, and 3.67 steals per game. He has also been a key player for the national youth teams, with stints in several FIBA tournaments.
He has also participated in the NBA's Basketball Without Borders camp, even earning MVP honors in 2018.
Even with those accolades already under his belt, Padrigao knows he has plenty to work on before he can take the reins in the Blue Eagles, as Nieto has done and as Belangel is expected to do.
"For me, sa tingin ko I'm not yet next in line. Wala pa ako doon, feel ko talaga malayong-malayo pa ako," he said.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin agrees that Padrigao has yet to reach his full potential, but he believes that the 18-year-old guard has the capability to surpass both Nieto and Belangel.
"I think one thing that separates Forthsky, potentially, from all of them -- and also presents the possibility of him being better than any of them -- is that he has better court vision than all of his predecessors have had and currently have," Baldwin said.
"I think he's a tremendous passer of the ball, and he's gonna get a lot stronger which is gonna make his passing even better," he added.
"So when you combine that with the fact that he is a good long range shooter, you've got a kid that can be a great floor general. He can be a player that plays very well with superior talent. And you got a guy that can be a force at the offensive end."
It will be crucial for Padrigao to ramp up his aggression and technique on the defensive end of the floor, too, as Baldwin wants him to become a complete point guard. The coach also wants him to bulk up and get stronger, to withstand the physicality of college basketball.
But his passing acumen will remain his greatest strength when he moves up to the seniors division.
"If there is a uniqueness about him within that group, I think that his court vision is tremendous, especially for such a young player," said Baldwin of Padrigao.