by Brian Yalung

Basketball is undoubtedly one of the popular sports in the Philippines and the abundance of cage talent is a given. Some have gone on to fulfill their dreams and most would agree that the secret to success in this sport is to start learning about the basics at a young age.

For six young aspiring basketball tykes who are looking forward to showing off their wares in the coming months, there is more to simply making their respective teams. All know that there are plenty of things to improve on as far as their game is concerned – something they are hopeful will further elevate their game as their basketball journey continues.

Manila Bulletin Sports took time out to talk to several 12-year-old cagers who could be among the next cage stars in the local scene. They are Rocco Melicor, Gian Gomez, Lebron Manding, Daryl Valdeavilla, Chadrick Timbol, and Jaime Gomez De Liano.

hoop kids brian yalung - Hoop Tykes rising to the occasion

TOP (L-R) Rocco Melicor, Chadrick Timbol, Gian Gomez.
Bottom (L-R) Lebron Manding, Jaime Gomez De Liano and Daryl Valdevilla (Brian Yalung photos)

These six boys are set to don new school colors for the year, a reward for standing out among the rest in previous tournaments. But despite that recognition, all agree that their basketball journey is only beginning.

First up were Valdevilla and Melicor, aspirin guards who agree that they need to work on some facets of their game. Shooting and ball-handling were just some of the things they pointed out, believing they still have a long way to go.

“I need to improve on my shooting kasi I am small. So puro drive lang ako. I need to practice on my mid-range shots,” said Melicor.

Valdevilla shares the same sentiment, believing he needs to develop an outside shot to compliment his game.

“I think there is more room for improvement. I am more of a slasher and I feel I need to improve more on shooting,” said Valdevilla.

For Gomez and De Liano (youngest brother of UP Fighting Maroons star Juan Gomez De Liano), working on their ball-handling and speed is their priority. Gomez, who plays point guard, knows the importance of being a court general and securing the ball is a must. De Liano, who also plays guard, believes that he needs to be faster especially when he goes on the break and when taking outside shots.

Manding, the smallest but cheerful among the group, is another budding point guard who feels he could improve more on offense and defense. Compared to his colleagues, he says he lacks a decent outside shot as he focuses more on using his speed to get to the basket.

When asked on who these young guards look up to, they mentioned Scottie Thompson, Paul Desiderio, and Juan Gomez De Liano, singling out how despite their size, each manages to contribute something to the team in terms. This includes using their speed and skills wisely, not to mention giving their all each time they take the basketball floor.

Timbol, the only one who played a different position in the group (center), believes he needs to work more on his ball-handling and footwork since he is expected to play more inside the paint. When asked who inspires him to play better, he said Thirdy Ravena of the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

“Thirdy Ravena is a player who does not use his height for battling people. He uses his skill level when going up against other basketball players and power to score,” said Timbol.

This early, these young kids are fully aware of what lies ahead of them in the world of basketball and all seem ready for the challenges ahead. Set to become teenagers soon, all know they have to address more parts of their game as they try to keep themselves competitive in their basketball journey.

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