MANILA, Philippines – It’s not easy to be in Jeron Teng’s shoes.
A 17-year-old rookie entrusted to bring De La Salle back to the Final Four amid an ever-growing hype and immense pressure.
“A lot of people are expecting I’ll be playing good already even though I haven’t played a single game. So there’s really pressure for me. They also want me to help La Salle win games and I think our team will work it out. We’ll help each other,” Teng told INQUIRER.net on a cloudy Monday afternoon.
The Green Archers finished way out of the Final Four, settling for sixth place with a 5-9 slate last season.
Looking to rebound from that forgettable stint, La Salle immediately replaced Dindo Pumaren with Gee Abanilla as head coach before landing the most sought after high school star today in Teng.
“I’m just very excited for the coming UAAP season. For La Salle, there a lot of changes like the coaches and we have a lot of rookies this year,” said Teng, a second-generation cager.
Teng, younger brother of University of Santo Tomas’ Jeric and son of PBA great Alvin, was chased by various schools for his prolific scoring packed in a good-sized frame dripping with potential.
And this dead-shot forward heavily considered two schools other than La Salle.
“Actually, my top three choices were Ateneo, NU and La Salle. In Ateneo, there’s coach Norman (Black) and he’s my dad’s former coach. In NU, there’s coach Eric (Altamirano) he coached me for two years in the national team that’s why I considered NU also. So we asked [for divine intervention] in a temple and it was La Salle that came out,” explained Teng.
Teng’s game was newsworthy during his stay with Xavier, which he led to several championships in the Tiong Lian league.
But Teng made headlines when he scored the most points in a high school game.
The six-foot-two swingman obliterated Grace Christian High school’s defense en route to 104 points to power the Golden Stallions to a romp.
“First, I just really planned on breaking the record of Tiong Lian which is 64 points by Eric Yao. But after the first quarter which I’ve scored almost 30 already, I had a chance of going for more, so why not? I would like to thank my coach for supporting me and my teammates too,” said Teng.
“I was also very lucky that day, as in almostevery shot kept falling in. I never thought I’d score that much,” continued Teng, who also said his game is much different from his brother’s with him being more of an inside scorer as opposed to Jeric’s tendency to take it from the outside.
With Teng on deck, La Salle beefed up its already talented roster that has holdovers like flashy two-guard Jarelan Tampus, heady guards Almond Vosotros and LA Revilla and imposing bigs Norbert Torres and a healthy Yutien Andrada.
It has only been two months since Teng started practicing with the Archers. And he knows that despite his talent, he still has a lot to learn.
“I still need to familiarize with my teammates, I think my chemistry with them is still in progress.”
It’s not just his teammates though, as Teng also needs to fit his game well if not adjust his style with the new system applied by former PBA coach Abanilla.
“He (Abanilla) is a well-rounded coach. He knows how to motivate his players well. He has a nice approach and he develops everyone,” Teng praised Abanilla.
“He told me that slowly I have to adapt to his system. He told me that it’s different here unlike in high school where I always have the ball.
And that I’d be playing with a lot of great stars as well and all of us need to be involved in every play,” added Teng.
As much as college hoop fans can’t wait for the opening of UAAP Season 75, so is Teng, who is particularly looking forward to two games: Against his brother and against the five-peat seeking Ateneo.
“I’ve dreamed ever since of playing in an Ateneo-La Salle rivalry.”
La Salle’s talented enough to win games but would definitely need Teng to deliver if it wants to find itself back in the semifinals.
And it will be another grind-it-out battle for that elusive top four with Ateneo, FEU, UST and now NU bolstering their line up as well.
“Our mission right now is to get to the Final Four. And when we get there that’s when we think about going further,” Teng said. “It’s going to be a failure on our part if we don’t make it in the Final Four.”
“I have lots of people supporting me like my coaches and my teammates and that relieves a bit of the pressure. So I think, by the time the UAAP comes, I’ll be fine.”