Breaking down Rhayyan Amsali’s move to San Beda

Last Saturday, May 5, 2018, it was reported that Rhayyan Amsali was leaving the NU Bullpups. In the meantime, while going through his decision making process, Rhayyan opted to focus first on his possible stint with Batang Gilas in the upcoming FIBA Asia U18 tournament in August. At the very core of all this decision was trying to find a home where he could become even better, and maybe even end up playing the three come college.

Six days later, Rhayyan’s finally found his new home in the San Beda Red Cubs.

Any time a high level talent such as Rhayyan goes to a different school, it’s bound to get some eyeballs looking at how he could raise the ceiling of a team. It’s especially interesting for the San Beda Red Cubs.

Rhayyan is a great addition for this new age of Red Cubs. They’re experiencing a rebuild of sorts, moving on from the age of Evan Nelle, Sam Abu Hijleh and Germy Mahinay to a group of upstarts led by Joshua Lazaro and Yukien Andrada. You can now add Rhayyan to form a big three of sorts. They clearly have the talent. After all, the three have played for previous iterations of Batang Gilas.

It’s an interesting triumvirate that Rhayyan, Yukien and Joshua bring since the three of them bring such different skills to the table. Rhayyan is a playmaking forward who has slowly evolved as someone who can attack passing lanes and can do work off the ball as sort of bully ball wing. Yukien is a modern big man through and through, skilled, smart on the court and subtle with his attack. Joshua, on the other hand, is your modern wing with a terrific motor and length for days. It’s an interesting, modern mix, with each player capable of producing in their own special way.

This is a new look Red Cubs team that is looking to get back to the Finals and reclaim the championship. One of the problems tSan Beda faces for the incoming NCAA season is how they lack familiar names with experience in high stakes situations. Joshua and Yukien have their history with the Argentina-bound Batang Gilas. The NCAA is a different monster. Not necessarily tougher, but a journey difficult nonetheless.

It provides a different kind of challenge compared to an international competition — A longer grind, if you will. This team lacks the kind of leader — a coach isn’t enough, sadly — who can calm the team down in pressure situations and rally them to victory. San Beda’s still more Final Four contender than favorites to win the title, right now.

However, the question most people are asking isn’t necessarily what the Red Cubs will get out of Rhayyan. It’s evident they’re getting a great player, a veteran who can inject some maturity in a program filled with youth. The real matter that needs answering is why exactly did Rhayyan choose San Beda, and what will he be getting from the program as an individual?

“I chose San Beda because I want to experience playing in the NCAA,” shared Rhayyan. The six other schools aside from San Beda that offered Rhayyan once he left NU were Ateneo, UP, FEU, UE, La Salle and Mapua. Given Rhayyan’s desire to go the NCAA, there were only three options for Rhayyan to choose from: The LSGH Greenies, the Mapua Red Robins and the San Beda Red Cubs.

The NCAA is a completely different league compared to the UAAP. It’s a lot more physical, with players forced to grow up faster because of the level of competition there is within the league. The kids in the league aren’t necessarily those who come from big schools in Metro Manila. They often come from provinces, so Rhayyan will be exposed to a different kind of challenge compared to what he had in the UAAP. A lot more physical, smash mouth, and diverse.

Another perk of getting to play in the NCAA is the extra years one can get compared to playing in the UAAP. Rhayyan explains, “If I stayed in NU, I would only have one more year to play in the UAAP.” He’s already finished three years of eligiblity in the UAAP, with one year left for him to play. As explained previously, in the NCAA, eligibility rules are a lot more loose compared to the UAAP. The basic requirement in the NCAA is for players to come into the season aged 19 or below. Rhayyan is just 17, so he still has two more years to play in High School. That difference in one year was essentially the difference when it came to Rhayyan’s decision making process. He was definitely going to an NCAA school, whether it was San Beda, LSGH or Mapua. But the difference between those three schools was the level of trust Rhayyan had in the San Beda program.

“I’ve always looked up to them (San Beda) even when I was still playing in the UAAP,” mentioned Rhayyan. “I think they have great strategies and teamwork in playing.” This isn’t to say LSGH and Mapua are subpar programs compared to the San Beda, because they’re not. They’re the last two champions in the NCAA Juniors Division, so they’re two schools that can be relied upon for a player’s development.

SLAM Rising Stars Troy Mallillin, Ricci Rivero, Will Gozum and Warren Bonifacio are just some of the big names who have come from those two champion programs. But the list from San Beda is a lot longer, as the program has long been considered as one of the best in the entire country.

The San Beda program has produced a legendary list of names aside from the likes of Evan Nelle. Guards have definitely shone, with the likes of Andrei Caracut, Rev Diputado and Baser Amer being notable products of the program. But forwards, the same type of player Rhayyan is, have also gone out of the program as winners. Gilas #23for23 cadets Arvin Tolentino and Javee Mocon are part of such a prestigious list among others. It’s a list filled with champions and stars. It was a safe choice for Rhayyan who was looking to start anew on his journey.

“I am looking forward to learning new techniques and tips that I could use inside the court,” shared Amsali.

Rhayyan isn’t afraid to admit that he isn’t a complete player yet. He wouldn’t have transferred to another school if he felt like he needed some drastic change so he could get to his desired destination. The difference between San Beda and NU isn’t necessarily with quality of program, they’re both schools who have produced a great list of stars. It’s more of context that matters with this transfer.

In NU, Rhayyan would have likely have had to stick to his role as a bruising 4 beside Carl Tamayo, thus hindering his development. In San Beda, there’s more leeway for him to try different things because of the youth within the team. He also gets that extra year of development because of the eligibility rules within the NCAA.

“I need it para mas gumaling ang skills ko in playing both in defense and offense,” said Rhayyan. “I think San Beda will be able to train me harder and teach me more things that I have to keep in mind while playing on and off the court.” He already has a good feel of how to attack passing lanes, that’s a result of playing for someone like Goldwin Monteverde. But the skill of moving off the ball, handling the rock responsibly and defending opposing wings one on one are things he has to get used to.

With a team as young and as versatile as San Beda, the stage is set for Rhayyan to develop into the small forward he dreams of becoming some day. Most importantly, he gets to hold the mantle as the main leader of the Red Cubs given his experience. He gets to do all of this in two years, one more year compared to what he could have done in the UAAP with the NU Bullpups.

Whether you view this move as an admission of weakness or as humility, all Rhayyan cares is about is getting better and maximizing whatever years he has left in High School. This is new ground for Rhayyan. For the first time, he has the opportunity to not only play as a small forward considering the amount of combinations Coach JB Sison could provide with the Red Cubs, but he can also be a leader for this young pack. For the first time in Rhayyan’s High School career, he’s in a team that isn’t a lock to make it to the Finals. No doubt about it, this road he is taking is completely different from whatever he had before.

New school. New team. New position to play. New Rhayyan Amsali. It’s something that everyone, from Red Cub supporters to opposing schools will surely keep their eyeballs glued on.