Among the DLSU Green Archers’ new recruits sharing the spotlight in a reloaded UAAP Season 85 roster, there is one name that stands out: Kevin Quiambao. From being a highly-touted high school basketball prospect to leaving international crowds in awe with his slick passing, the Muntinlupa native has been touted to lead the modern era of big men in Philippine basketball.
With La Salle reeling in fresh faces for a revamped roster, Quiambao is more than ready to take charge as he vows to be Season 85’s Rookie of the Year.
Different brand of basketball
Getting more exposure by the day, Quiambao gets compared to reigning National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player (MVP) Nikola Jokić due to their similar playing style—as highlighted by their passing skills. This is no surprise for the 6’8” forward, though. “Na-draft siya nung 2014, tapos in-introduce siya ng coach ng LPU (Lyceum of the Philippines University) at that time. Sinabi niya ‘In the next five years, magiging MVP itong si Jokić; magblo-bloom ‘yung career niya sa NBA.’ So, sinubaybayan ko na ‘yung career niya and inidolo ko na siya,” he shares. Modeling his game after the international star, Quiambao was able to translate his adoration for Jokić into success locally as he was recruited by National University (NU) for his secondary studies.
(He got drafted last 2014, then the LPU coach at that time introduced him to me. He said, ‘In the next five years, Jokić will become the MVP; his career will bloom in the NBA.’ So, I monitored his career and I idolized him.)
Prior to committing to La Salle, Quiambao played for the NU Bullpups, where he was a two-time UAAP Boys’ Basketball Champion alongside his batch of Bullpups that included University of the Philippines Diliman’s Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano. Together, they bolstered a squad that dominated the high school basketball scene. Even in a team stacked with talent, Quiambao elevated his recruitment stock, “Galing akong barangay leagues, [then] napunta ako sa big school. And then ayun nga, sobrang daming process na nangyari, nalipat ako sa NU. And…doon nag-bloom ‘yung career ko and doon na-unlock ‘yung potential ko ni coach (Goldwin Monteverde),” Quiambao narrates.
(I came from barangay leagues, then I went to a big school. And then there, so many processes happened, I transferred to NU. And there, my career bloomed and coach (Goldwin Monteverde) was able to unlock my potential.)
The young Gilas standout did not shy away from raving about playing for his dream school, DLSU. The decision-making process for his collegiate career was not easy. “Sobrang hirap nung process noon, kaya mga three months ako ‘di makatulog; ‘di ko alam kung anong choice ba talaga ‘yung pipiliin ko, kung mag–stastay ako [in NU] or go ko na ‘tong La Salle,” he reminisces. Aided by opinions from family, friends, and coaches around him, he eventually made the move to Taft, “Malaking factor din na dream school ko ‘yung La Salle so hindi na ako nagdalawang–isip.”
(The process then was really hard, that’s why I couldn’t sleep for three months; I don’t know what choice I would really pick, if I would stay in NU or go to La Salle.)
(It was also a big factor that La Salle was my dream school so I didn’t think twice.)
Taking his talents to Taft
Even though Quiambao committed to DLSU in 2020, his debut had been delayed by a season as he was initially expected to suit up for Season 84. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, he began embracing the DLSU culture and observed his teammates from the sidelines last season, “‘Yung pinaka ina-admire ko sa kanila (Michael Phillips and Justine Baltazar) is crashing the boards. Top 2 tayo last season for rebounds and gusto namin ipagpatuloy yun this season. [Additionally], last tayo sa offense last season, trinatry namin i-work on this off-season [break].”
(The facet of the game that I admired the most from Michael Phillips and Justine Baltazar is their ability to crash the boards. We were [in the] Top 2 in rebounding last season, and we want to continue that this season. We were last in offense last season, so we have been working on that this off-season [break].)
Quiambao’s splendid performance in the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup and PBA D-League was an indicator that he has been developing chemistry with the Green and White. One primary reason for that could be their off-court bonding moments, “‘Yung bonding sa dorm, ‘yung mga late-night kwentuhan, and tambayan—may mga deep talks, and ‘yun ‘yung mga bonding namin. Nakukuha namin ‘yung chemistry unti–unti.”
(Our bonding at the dorm, our late-night stories, and hangouts—we have deep talks, and those are our times to bond. Because of that, I believe that is why we are improving our on-court chemistry little by little.)
Big steps forward
As Quiambao and the team move forward and forge bonds that can outlast lifetimes, the rising star looks back on his memorable experiences with the NU Bullpups and Gilas Pilipinas, “‘Yung tulong ng Gilas, sobrang laki, na-gain ‘yung exposure sa competition sa FIBA [and] sobrang hirap ng competition—kumbaga pipigain mo sarili mo.”
(Gilas Pilipinas helped a lot. The exposure to competition, and the competition is very difficult, [it] makes you give your all.)
Despite constantly pouring his all into the game, the playmaking bigman acknowledges that he has plenty to work on before reaching the pinnacle of his basketball career. From his experience playing with Gilas Pilipinas, he realized that there is much more competition out there. “In-address ko sa sarili ko na marami pa palang kulang, madami pa pala akong i-improve,” he says, further explaining that these gaps are the ones he worked hard to fill in when he had started playing in the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup.
(I addressed to myself that I still lack in many areas and that there are many things I still need to improve on.)
Although there are many things for the Green Archers to work on after ending the UAAP Season 84 with a bronze finish and currently struggling in Season 85, Quiambao reminds the DLSU community that the Taft-based squad is simply trusting the process and focusing on what they have ahead of them. The DLSU Green Archers are improving day by day, and there should be no doubt about it from any of their fans.
For spectators, it has been admirable for Quiambao to mesh instantly with a talented unit. Ahead of this season’s opening, he shares that he is focused on two main goals, “[Gusto ko] tumatak sa mga Lasallista na napagchampion ko ‘tong team na ‘to. Kumbaga mag–iiwan ako ng legacy na napagchampion ko itong team na ‘to in Season 85. Gusto ko rin talaga kunin ‘yung Rookie MVP—aim for the big goal.”
(I want it to be ingrained in the Lasallians that I led this team to a championship. I want to leave a legacy that I was able to lead this Season 85 team to a championship. Also, I want to claim the Rookie MVP—aim for the big goal.)
At the end of the day, Lasallians are assured that the goals of Quiambao and the Green Archers boil down to one thing: bringing the championship back to Taft.