This year's edition of the Slam Rising Stars Classic couldn't have gotten a better end of regulation.
While Team Punks eventually prevailed over Team Hype, 124-116, in overtime, the latter had a chance to snatch victory after being down as large as 17 points, if not for a three-pointer from the former in the final seconds.
No matter the outcome, winning coach Olsen Racela was on-point when he said, "It feels great that the future of Philippine basketball is very bright." The annual exhibition match not only granted young prospects a stage to earn bragging rights, but also gave a glimpse of who and what to look forward to in local hoops.
Evan Nelle (San Beda Red Cubs)
The sweet-shooting 5'10" guard, who is set to become a Red Lion, topscored for his team with 21. On top of that, Nelle also contributed four rebounds, three assists, and two steals, on his way to capturing co-MVP honors with the next guy on this list.
Kai Sotto (Ateneo Blue Eaglets)
His 16 points, 13 boards, and three blocks may be impressive, but watching the UAAP Finals MVP up close and personal revealed underrated facets of his game: free-throw shooting, passing, and an improving footwork, which made Kai look downright scary.
RJ Abarrientos (FEU Baby Tamaraws)
Carrying the surname of a local basketball legend didn't seem to faze RJ, as he provided the Punks the backcourt stability. The combo-guard showed flashes of his uncle and some Flying A craftiness, putting up 17 markers (five threes) and five dimes.
Dave Ildefonso (Ateneo Blue Eaglets)
After a slow start, the son of Danny Ildefonso did work in the post and heated up from the perimeter for 15 points. Dave went on to hit the biggest shot of the Classic—a tightly contested trey in the waning seconds that sent the game to the OT period.
CJ Cansino (UST Tiger Cubs)
Cansino going perfect from the field (8-of-8, including 2-2 from deep) for 20 markers validated his UAAP Season 80 Most Valuable Player trophy. He could've done more to help his team erase the opponent's long-standing lead earlier if he had more playing time.
John Galinato (CKSC Blue Dragons)
His game-high 27 points—on an efficient 11-18 shooting—would've been sweeter if it came with a triumph. That doesn't take away from Galinato's scoring prowess and a lot of promise that the prolific Chiang Kai Shek College shooting guard brings.
Raven Cortez (DLSZ Junior Archers)
The 6'7" big man scored the fewest for his squad with four, but his defensive impact isn't something that can be reflected on the boxscore. Up against an even more towering presence in Kai, Cortez more than held his own with timely swats and swipes.