Jalen Green returns to PH a top-shelf star seeking NBA glory

Filipino-American guard Jalen Green from Houston Rockets during a press conference in Manila on Thursday. –LANCE AGCAOILI

Filipino-American guard Jalen Green from Houston Rockets during a press conference in Manila on Thursday. –LANCE AGCAOILI

Jalen Green made his return to the Philippines on a triumphant note, no longer the high school kid with Filipino roots who dazzled opponents and fans with his exuberant talent.

Three years since his last visit, Green is back in town as a young National Basketball Association (NBA) talent who had completed a rookie campaign with the Houston Rockets—a team he hopes to one day turn into a winner.

It also gave the 20-year-old the opportunity to repay the support he has received since dazzling fans and opponents while playing for a Filipino-American team in the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) National Finals.

“It feels great [to be back],” Green said in a press conference held as part of a promotional tour for shoe company Adidas.

“Coming here to the Philippines [where] everyone gives much love and support, and to give my love and support back to them means the world to me,” he added during the short event at Adidas Brand Center inside Glorietta 3 in Makati City.

His family, including mother Bree Purganan—whose grandfather hails from Ilocos Sur, is also here. Green expressed his desire to explore the country more as compared to his previous visits.

Green played for Fil-Am Sports USA in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the NBTC where he is best remembered for dunking on then-Ateneo high school star Kai Sotto during a game at Mall of Asia Arena.

His twin appearances gave Filipinos an early glimpse of the player who would end up fulfilling his NBA dream as a second overall pick of the 2021 Draft.

“[The support has not] changed since I was in high school,” he said. “[Since] I came here in my sophomore, junior year to now it’s been the same and I appreciate everyone for keeping that same love, that same energy.”

He played 67 games for Houston in his rookie year, averaging 17.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. But the Rockets, on a rebuilding phase, had the league’s worst record with a 20-62 record.

That has stoked Green’s hunger entering his sophomore season, where he will be joined by No. 3 overall pick Jabari Smith.

“The specific parts that I want to work on in my game is to make better reads, make decisions faster and just learn how to win,” said Green. “We had a rough season last year, we’re in a rebuild situation so just learning how to win.”

Long-term goals, however, is for Green to help the Rockets more out of the cellar.

“My mindset is to go and win and be the best version of myself. Like I said, I have to build that winning mentality,” he said. “The thing with my team is that we’re very young and we’re in a rebuild, trying to get everyone on the same page, trying to go in the right direction.”