Cebuano cager, who now plays for UST, visits Cebu school where his basketball journey started
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebuano ace combo guard Nicael Cabañero returned to the University of San Carlos-Basic Education-North Campus after four years of campaigning in Manila in the UAAP.
The 19-year-old Cabañero of Lapu-Lapu City has come a very long way nine years after he played with USC as an elementary cager.
Cabañero, who stands at 6-foot-2, is now the University of Santo Tomas’s (UST) Growling Tigers’ co-captain under the tutelage of head coach Bal David.
One of those, who welcomed Cabañero to his alma mater, was no other than Galimar Largo, who is the university’s sports coordinator and the person who discovered him back in 2014 when he tried out for the team.
“I’m very proud that I came from this school. Never nako gihuna-huna nga layo na kaayo ko og naabtan ako na lang ni kalimtan. I think I still have so much improvement to do, but I’m so proud that this school recognized all of my achievements,” said Cabañero who graduated elementary in USC.
(I’m very proud that I came from this school. I never thought that I have reached far and I have forgotten this. I think that I still have so much improvement to do, but I’m so proud that this school recognized all of my achievements.)
“Kung dili tungod sa San Carlos, I think dili nako maabot kung asa ko karon. Wala jud ko alam sa background sa ilang basketball, pero I found out champion diay sa elementary sa SBP. So I was shocked, I was happy because coach Largo (Galimar) was the one who convinced me to join the team. So, wala ko nagduha-duha kay naa nay scholarship. Dako na og tabang sa akong parents,” the Cebuano basketball player said.
(If not for San Carlos, I think I cannot be where I am now. I have no background on their brand of basketball, but I found out that they are champions in the elementary division. So I was shocked, I was happy because coach Largo (Galimar) was the one who convinced me to join the team. So, I did not hesitate because there is a scholarship. That is a big help to my parents.)
Cabañero is now one of the rising stars of the UST that is currently rebuilding after the its 2020 collapse that virtually left the team empty.
It can be recalled that UST was marred with a controversy in 2020 in its bubble training camp in Sorsogon that resulted to its former head coach Aldin Ayo, star players CJ Cansino, Brent Paraiso, Rhenz Abando and several others leaving the team.
With no certainty for its future, Cabañero along with team captain Paul Matthew Manalang and several other rookies and sophomores rebuilt the Growling Tigers’ roster in the UAAP.
“Siguro (Perhaps) at a young age, I’m one of the leaders of the team as the co-captain. As a sophomore and one of the leaders, I’m the voice of the team although I’m not that vocal, I’m more on actions to lead the team,” said Cabañero who was accompanied by his parents, Dominic and Annalene.
With hard work and determination, Cabañero is one of the fast-rising cagers of UAAP. He is the Season 85 scoring champion and 3×3 UAAP Season 84 champion.
Offers abroad for Cebuano cager
Because of his talent, the Cebuano basketball player received an interest from teams in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) and the Japan B. League.
If negotiations push through, Cabañero could become the youngest import of the two international leagues which is another feather to his cap.
“It’s very fascinating to get offers abroad. If that happens then I’m very thankful sa (for the) opportunity, pero (but) I will remain patient and continue working and improving sa (in the ) UAAP. Kung para ato-a jud na ang offers (If the offers are for me), then thankful kaayo ko, pero (then I am very thankful, but) I want to be patient first and focus on improving ,” said the Cebuano cager.
For his part, Largo said that he immediately recruited and didn’t let Cabañero go the first time he saw the latter play.
“Akong giduol siya ug iyang papa. Ako sila gipangutana kung unsa ilang plano. Pagkita lang nako daan, ako na gyud gihulbot wala na nako buhii,” said Largo.
(I approached him and his papa. I asked them what their plans are. When I saw him, I pulled him in the team and never let him go.)
“10 years old siya that time. Ang pinakanindot nako nakita niya iyaha gyud depensa. Nakaana ko grabe ang potential aning bataa. Mao na karon proud kaayo ko nakakita niya sa iyahang mga achievements, ug pasalamat sad ko nga nibisita siya diri namo,” he said.
(He was 10 years old at that time. What I saw that I liked about him was his defense. It prompted me to tell myself the great potential of this kid. So now, I am so proud to see his own achievements, and I am also grateful that he visited us here.)
Joining them during the Cebuano basketball player’s visit was USC-NC’s principal Rovelyn C. Mina and G-Sports founder Gerry Canonigo.
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