Adamson in hot pursuit of Palaro crowd favorite Mark Nonoy

LEGAZPI CITY — Western Visayas’ wily guard Mark Nonoy has emerged as one of the crowd favorites in the 2016 Palarong Pambansa and it’s easy to understand why.

With his lightning-quick speed and gung-ho attitude in full display, the 5-foot-8 Nonoy, 15, drew the admiration of a sizeable Thursday crowd despite an 82-100 setback dealt by formidable Central Luzon in their knockout quarterfinals affair at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation here.

An incoming 10th Grader at the Hua Siong College of Iloilo, Nonoy dazzled those in attendance with his boundless energy on both ends, doing his best to help Western Visayas stay on the heels of Central Luzon in what started to be a nip-and-tuck battle.

Although he walked away empty-handed on his first Palaro stint, Nonoy has clearly won the hearts of local fans—and even the attention of many scouts, some of them working for UAAP- and NCAA-affiliated schools.

“Hindi naman sa pagiging biased, pero sa tournament ngayon, kino-consider ko siya as one of the best point guards,” said Western Visayas coach Bing Conlu of the La Carlota, Negros Oriental native.

“Consistent si Nonoy kahit sa province namin maglaro. May points, rebounds and assists ang mga numero niya. Hindi pa kasama du’n ang leadership niya.”

Conlu, 36, admitted he still marvels at Nonoy’s quickness, even comparing him to a lefty version of Gilas Pilipinas standout Jayson Castro and the combination of NBA stars—Argentinian wonder Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley.

“Parang freak of nature ‘yung speed niya,” stressed Conlu. “Sa tagal ko nang nagko-coach, ngayon pa lang ako nakakita ng ganu’n kabilis na point guard. Parang kaliweteng Jayson Castro. Pero sa international (scene), parang kinombayn na Mike Conley at speed ni Manu Ginobili.”

And it’s no surprise since Nonoy came from a family who has athletic genes.

“‘Yung tatay niya sabi sa akin naglalaro ng basketball noon tapos ‘yung nanay kasali sa track and field. Kaya in-born ‘yung speed niya. Kahit hindi ko nga siya pag-ensayuhin, ganu’n pa rin ang speed niya,” shared Conlu.

So far, Adamson could be considered as the most aggressive suitor for Nonoy.

But nothing is cast in stone yet, according to Conlu, since he wants Nonoy to finish his commitments with his current school.

“Number 1 na lumapit sa amin ‘yung Adamson. Pero ‘yung juniors team nila,” said Conlu. “Darling of the crowd siya dito, maski ‘yung mga taga UAAP at NCAA na scouts. Pero bata pa si Nonoy. Sabi ko tapusin niya muna ‘yung (high school) career niya under my supervision. At the time na hinog na siya, doon na siya pipili sa school niya sa Manila.”

And Nonoy intends to use his basketball skills as his ticket to reach his ultimate dreams—and help their family of eight, including his father who is a plumber.

“Nagpupursige po ako maglaro para matulungan ang pamilya ko,” he said, his voice cracking. “Masarap po sa pakiramdam na nilalapitan ako ng maraming schools. Itong paglalaro ko po ng basketball ang magiging susi para makarating ako sa Maynila.”

According to the physicians they have consulted, Nonoy could grow as high of “6-foot-2 at the age of 18 to 20” and, if he stays healthy, he could be “the future of Philippine basketball,” according to Conlu. – By Jerome Lagunzad

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