Basketball crazies in Manila are going ga-ga over Fil-Nigerian AJ Edu, who’s in town to connect with the SBP’s national program and reconnect with his own roots.
The 6’9 Edu is certainly a promising prospect for Filipino basketball, but, in truth, he’s not the only one. Far from it. Right now, in fact, at least three Fil-Foreigners have expressed their own interest in, one day, playing in and, hopefully, for the Philippines.
Folks, meet Fil-Americans Jordan Bartlett and Ron Harper, Jr. (yes, the son of THAT Ron Harper), and Fil-Aussie James Matthew Laput.
Jordan Jose Mejica Bartlett
birthdate: May 31, 1997 birthplace: Columbia, Maryland.
height/position: 5’11 – Point Guard
Bartlett became somewhat of an online sensation a few weeks back after scoring back-to-back 40+ point games in the 2016 WBAC tournament held at the famous Rucker Park court in New York City. He just graduated school this June and, so far, has not yet committed to any college. His mom, Glad Mejica Bartlett, hails from San Antonio, Zambales and was raised in Quezon City.
Ronald Harper, Jr.
birthdate: April 12, 2000 birthplace: Englewood, California, Chicago, Illinois.
height/position: 6’4 – Guard/Forward
Ronald is the son of former NBA veteran and champion Ron Harper and Filipina Maria Pizarro. He played with Bartlett in the WBAC tourney this year and will also play for Don Bosco Prep this coming academic year. There is a small window that may make him eligible for our Batang Gilas U18 team in 2018 (together with Edu).
James Matthew Laput
birthdate: August 26, 1996 birthplace: Perth, Australia.
height/position: 6’9 – Center/Forward
Laput is a full-blooded Filipino who is entering his second year at Young Harris College in Georgia. He started playing basketball at 13 years old and has since moved to the States to fast-track his development. He has also seen action in the Western Australian Basketball League (WABL).
FOX Sports Philippines got in touch with all three players.
FOX Sports: How did you learn to play basketball?
Bartlett: Basketball has just always been my love and passion. It was always my first love. I was eventually discovered at a basketball camp by Stu Vetter, hall of fame basketball coach from Montrose Christian, where Kevin Durant went to high school. I also played in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), in the Filipino Youth Basketball Association (FYBA) and on to my last three years at Saint James.
Harper: I learned to play basketball from my mother and father. It was sir Bong who contacted my mother for me to play for Team Philippines at the WBAC showcase, and it was a complete success.
Laput: I learnt to play through the WABL in Australia. I have never faced Filipino competition of any sort, but I’ve played Australian ball for 4 years and American ball for 2 years, going into my 3rd now.
FOX Sports: How well are you in touch with your “Filipino side?”
Bartlett: Very well-connected. I actually attended pre-school for one year in the Philippines in Zambales. My parents have also kept me very connected to my Philippine culture through family, friends and the FYBA of Washington, DC. Of course, I have grown up on a steady diet of Filipino food. My favorite dish is beef sinigang.
Harper: I’m well in touch with my Filipino side. I’m very close with the Filipino side of my family — my mom’s side.
Laput: I am close with my immediate family and first cousins, who are in Australia. The rest of my family are in the Philippines.
FOX Sports: What have you heard about basketball in the Philippines or Philippine teams?
Bartlett: I have always known that it is the national sport of the Philippines. Aside from the pro teams, I have heard a lot about La Salle and Ateneo and understand they are considered college powers there, but I have also heard of other schools that are very good as well.
Harper: I’ve heard that basketball in the Phillipines is great and that they have great competition over there.
Laput: I have heard of the PBA, the PBA D-league, the college programs, and the national team. I know the country has a great league and massive fan base and that basketball is the national sport.
FOX Sports: What are your biggest strengths?
Bartlett: I have been told that some of my greatest strengths are my straight-line and side-to-side speed and my ability to create separation with my ball-handling. I have also been recognized for my leadership on the court and being a lockdown defender. I pride myself on being the first guy in the gym and the last guy out. I work very, very hard and am constantly trying to perfect my game
Harper: My biggest strength is using my God-given abilities to the best of my strengths. I also am a very good all-around offensive player.
Laput: I’m a bruiser. I like to get into the other team and play physical. I’m a traditional big man with a mid-range shooting game. Defense is and has always been my strong point. They say I’m a defensive anchor.
FOX Sports: Are you interested to play in the Philippines or for the Philippines anytime in the future?
Bartlett: Yes, I have always hoped to play there at some point in my career and have especially hoped to play for Gilas Pilipinas someday.
Harper: I am very interested in playing there and playing for the Philippines in the future.
Laput: My goal is to play professionally, and playing in the Philippines is a top priority.
By Enzo Flojo
Follow this writer on Twitter: @hoopnut