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Red Robins’ Youngest Player Joins Jr. NBA’s Friendly Games in HK

Monday, October 10, 2011Malayan High School of Science (MHSS) 2nd year student Justin Serrano was ecstatic when he was picked to become one of the 10-member junior basketball team that was sent to Hong Kong by Jr. NBA (National Basketball Association) Philippines early September of this year for a friendly match against teams from 2 Hong Kong schools.

Out of the thousands, age 10 to 14 years below, who tried out in different parts of the country in March, the 6’1” forward of Red Robins was among those who stood out during the rigorous selection process that was attended by coaches from various basketball leagues.

It was an unexpected feat, said Serrano, for he was pitted against some of the best players from his age group.

“Masaya po ako kasi po hindi ko po ini-expect na magiging team mates ko po at magiging kaibigan ang mga anak ng dating PBA players Benjie Paras at Bong Ravena na sina Kobe Paras at Thirday Ravena, young brother po ni Kiefer Ravena, ‘yong mga kalaban ko sa ibang basketball league (I am happy because I didn’t expect that the sons of former PBA players Benjie Paras and Bong Ravena - Kobe Paras and Thirday Ravena, younger brother of Kiefer Ravena -would become my team mates and friends. We play against each other in other basketball league),” he said.

All 10 of them flew to Hong Kong where they stayed from September 1 to 4 all expenses paid. Serrano said it was his first trip abroad. “It was a dream come true. Isa po talaga sa mga pangarap ko na makapaglaro sa ibang bansa ng basketball (It was really one of my dreams to play basketball abroad).”

It was an enjoyable and memorable experience for the young basketball player. Aside from the much anticipated friendly games, they were also toured around Hong Kong including a visit to Disneyland.

While there, the 2011 Jr. NBA All-Star Philippines team also met with retired NBA player Dominique Wilkins who advised them to practice hard and just enjoy basketball.

Friendly games in HK

Serrano, the youngest member of the Red Robins, plays no sports other than basketball.

He is the tallest in his family. His mom stands 5’4,” while his 9-year-old sister is now taller than their mom. His 5’10” father used to be part of a varsity team but it was his 65-year-old grandfather who influenced him to get into the sport.

According to Serrano, his grandfather, who stands 5’8,” and uncles would always take him to the Araneta Coliseum to watch PBA. From then on, he said he vowed to be seen on television and to join a professional basketball league someday.

It would not be farfetched if Serrano eventually joins the ranks of PBA players years from now. His being part of the Red Robins is already a good training ground for Serrano, said his coach, Randy Alcantara.

Serrano’s stint at Jr. NBA All-Star Philippines team would also help him achieve his dream to join the professional basketball league.

Upon the urging of Alcantara, Serrano had tried out to be part of the team. More than that, Serrano said he joined in order to develop and improve his skills like proper ways of shooting, passing and dribbling the ball.

From the thousands of young players across the country who tried out, only 50 young basketball trainees from 5 regions were initially chosen. They were chosen from regional camps in Cebu, Bacolod, Laguna, Manila and the Alaska Power Camp.

The Jr. NBA Philippines conducted 3-day trainings at the La Salle Green Hills gym in Mandaluyong City. From the 50 trainees, 10 were given a chance to go to Hong Kong.

PBA legends Jojo Lastimosa and Elmer Cabahug and ex-NBA player AC Green were among the trainers.

”Ang ini-expect ko lang naman po sana maturuan ako ng NBA na ma-improve ang skills ko sa basketball po tsaka sa attitude (My only expectation was I wanted to improve my basketball skills through training conducted by NBA),” he said.

Acquiring the right attitude such as sportsmanship was also part of the training, he added.

All the trainings and hard work that the 10 young Filipinos went through seemed to have paid off when they dominated the two games in the friendly match against YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College and Hong Kong International School.

They won by 10 points during the first match. As for the second match, they were clear winners early on in the game, scoring 32 versus 4 points in the first half.

Praises

Both Alcantara and MHSS principal, Dr. Efren B. Mateo, said they were proud of Serrano.

“Nakita ko sa bata talagang matiyaga siya, nakikinig, coachable, disiplinado. Isa pa doon, willing siyang matuto, lahat ng ipapagawa mo susundin niya… ‘Yong sa Jr. NBA, isa ako na talagang ni-recommend siya (The boy is persistent, he listens, he is coachable and very disciplined. He’s willing to learn and he would do what you’ve asked of him. That’s why I highly recommended him when he tried out at Jr. NBA) ,” Alcantara said.

Alcantara also commended Serrano for his work ethics, adding that he was deserving to be part of the junior team that played in Hong Kong. He said Serrano’s game has improved after his Jr. NBA stint.

He added that he believes Serrano has the potential to become a future star.

Dr. Mateo was also all praises for the sophomore student.

“We were happy he made it because only a few students who were aspiring to be basketball superstars someday could be included,” Dr Mateo said, adding:

“The school definitely encourages this kind of participations by our students. Since Justin is also a varsity player of MHSS, he is being given scholarship (matriculation fee discount) by the school. That is the support the school is giving him, including the uniforms (allowance) and other benefits.”

PBA dream

Serrano felt blessed to have the chance to be part of the junior Philippine basketball team and to compete in Hong Kong. He acceded that not everybody was given that kind of opportunity.

He said he would want to join other similar trainings in the future not only to improve himself but also to be exposed to different countries and culture.

Like other young basketball players, Serrano also aspires to join PBA someday and play for B-Meg Derby Ace Llamados, the team of his favorite cager, James Yap.

For now though, Serrano, who turned 15 on May 27, said he would continue to hone his basketball skills as well as to focus on his studies.

He might have not met his NBA idols Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant but the Red Robins player surely had the blast in Hong Kong.

When asked to share his most memorable experience in Hong Kong, the 15-year-old readily replied: “’Yong pagkapanalo namin sa 2 Hong Kong basketball teams kasi po 1 day lang po yong laro and 4 hours lang po ang pagitan noong laban namin. At siyempre po yong pag punta rin po ng Jr. NBA sa Disney (When we won against the 2 Hong Kong basketball teams because both games were held on the same day. They were only 4 hours apart. And of course, when the team went to Disneyland ).”

Malayan High School of Science student Justin Serrano, who is a member of Red Robins, is part of this year’s Jr. NBA All-Star Philippines Team that was sent to Hong Kong early September.

The members of this year’s Jr. NBA All-Star Philippines Team pose at the NBA office in Hong Kong. Malayan High School of Science student Justin Serrano (third from right) is among them.

The members of this year’s Jr. NBA All-Star Philippines Team tour around Hong Kong, including a visit to Disneyland, before their friendly games against 2 Hong Kong teams.

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