The Houston Rockets have picked Jalen Green in second in the draft and are building the team around their new star player. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Philippine basketball has officially crossed the limits of the Philippine archipelago. Filipino-Americans have already conquered the National Basketball Association.
The first to officially play in the big leagues was Raymond Townsend, whose mother is a Batanguena. He was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1978.
Since then, players of Filipino descent have become legitimate stars of the NBA. Jordan Clarkson reached all-time highs for all three stars and the sun by winning the Sixth Man of the Year award last season, the first Filipino to win a major NBA award.
It is very unlikely that he will be the last.
Now enter Jalen Green.
Filipino basketball fans got to know Clarkson while he was already in the NBA. But they had already had a love affair long before next NBA superstar Pinoy joined the 2021 NBA Draft.
The Houston Rockets picked Green second overall in the draft and are building the team around their new star player.
The 19-year-old versatile guard has already played twice in the Philippines as part of the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) annual invitational tournament. A Fil-Am team took on the best high schools in the country. Green wowed the Filipinos by diving on the 7-foot-1 Kai Sottoâ¦ twice!
They were classic “Unicorn vs. Unicorn” showdowns, Filipino style.
The 6ft 6in super athlete Green finds his roots in Ilocos Sur while his mother Bree Purganan hails from the north. Jalen, however, was born in Merced, Calif., And raised in Golden State, before moving to Fresno where he eventually played at the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), where future high school and college stars university are discovered.
Green immediately stood out. He was drafted by Team USA for the FIBA ââUnder-16 Americas Championship in 2017, shattering the hopes and hearts of Filipino fans who hoped he could play for Gilas Pilipinas.
Young Jalen was clearly world class and he won the FIBA ââUnder-17 MVP award in 2018 (where a Filipino team led by Kai Sotto also competed).
After an excellent performance in 2018, he was drafted for the 2019 FIBA ââUnder-19 with a group of older teammates (Green was born in 2002, most of that batch were born in 2000). It was his last stop before his college basketball career. His American teammates and top five rookie colleagues like Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons, Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jalen Suggs of the Orlando Magic have already made their college picks.
But Green decided to skip college and play in the G-League through the G-League Ignite program, again with Kai Sotto.
Expectations were high for the Ignite team, driven by Green’s presence. While Kai Sotto’s stint with Team Ignite was cut short, Green shone in the G-League against both adult men and pros.
But Jalen wasn’t just up to the challenge, he wanted it. He skipped the “big man on campus” experience because he was laser focused on his goal: the NBA.
For many observers college basketball was a stopover, the G-League was a stepping stone. Green felt he would improve further if he spent his only year with a league for the pros rather than playing college basketball. It wasn’t an easy choice since Green had powerful college teams knocking on his door like Kansas and Kentucky.
During his Ignite stint, Green averaged 17.9 points (46.1% FG, 36.5% on 3 points), 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.0 minutes. He led the team to the playoffs, but lost in the one-game knockout. In his lone playoff game, the 19-year-old dominated even against seasoned pros, scoring the best score with 30 points (55.0% FG), while handing out 7 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds.
Ignite coach Brian Shaw, a former NBA player, praised Jalen on his maturity and desire to learn. Often praised for his physical and athletic gifts, Green earned Shaw’s respect for being “a student of the game and having a knack for understanding things.”
Green’s decision not to go to college paid off.
From one of the top five prospects, he moved to second place on the night of the draft. He was even picked before college stars Mobley and Suggs.
Green has already understood that physical gifts are not enough to land a ticket to the NBA. Houston fans rejoiced when the Rockets drafted him.
Green is now becoming the poster for all Filipino hoopsters. A player who wore “USA” on his jersey, and the Philippines in his heart.