LED by reigning champion National University-Nazareth School (NUNS), 24 squads featuring eight international teams duke it out in the anticipated return of the Smart-NBTC National Finals presented by SM today (March 15) at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.
With the third-ranked high school player Rein Jumamoy at helm, the Bullpups march into battle as the No. 1 seed in the stacked field for the comeback of the country’s largest tourney for the first time amid the pandemic.
Heavy favorites are the Bullpups, despite falling short in the semifinals of the ongoing UAAP Season 85 boys basketball, as they seek a three peat in the staple HS tourney powered by Smart Communications, SM, Strong Realty and Development Corp., Under Armour and Molten.
NUNS’ first test is No. 24 seed PCU-Dasmariñas, champion from Cavite zone, tomorrow in the seeding phase of the Super 24 that includes UAAP and NCAA bets, eight overseas squads and 12 representatives from the local qualifiers.
Taking the first crack in NBTC’s return is No. 6 Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, led by No. 1 ranked player and Gilas Pilipinas youth ace Jared Bahay, against European champion Rome Elite at 9 a.m. today.
Mr. Bahay’s fellow Gilas players in Caelum Harris, Jacob Bayla and Zain Mahmood, meanwhile, banner the Fil-Nation Select from the United States as among the perennial contenders expected to give NSNU a run for its own money. All games will be livestreamed on Facebook via the NBTC, Smart Sports, and Puso Pilipinas pages. — John Bryan Ulanday