WORDS by Miguel Caramoan
John Rey Pasaol is about to enter the fray and introduce his own brand of game.
The Philippine collegiate basketball scenery has watched different sibling acts blossom and live up to their names’ standards. Just peep at the Ravenas, the de Liaños, and the Nietos. By next year, a new Pasaol will take center stage and will try to prove that he can hang with the big boys—like his kuya Alvin.
Pressure is definitely something that Pasaol feels knowing how much the former UE Red Warrior made his mark in the UAAP. Well, you can’t blame him for having that notion, knowing that your brother once dropped a 49-piece nugget, which remains unmatched up to this day. Despite that, he is determined to get people’s attention not because of his family name, but with his stellar play.
“Nandun talaga ang pressure, dahil may na-build ng pangalan si kuya at wala pa ako gaanong napapatunayan. Kaya lagi ko iniisip na kailangan ko pa galingan para maipakita ko na hindi lang ako kapatid ni Alvin Pasaol,” the younger Pasaol told SLAM Philippines.
Pasaol’s first basketball break came when he participated in the SBP U16 Pambansang Tatluhan 2018 National Finals. He was part of Region 11’s team that placed second in the tourney. It was a perfect coming-out party, as Pasaol made it known what he is capable of inside the basketball court.
Thrown into the fire as it may seem, the 16-year-old then Pasaol admitted that even being inexperienced in such quality basketball tournaments, he is thankful to be able to show off his wares. This was an opportunity and blessing that only makes him prepared for the next stage.
“Siyempre overwhelmed ako kasi iba’t-ibang top players ang nakalaro ko sa event na ‘yun. Dagdag experience talaga sa akin ‘yun na nakatulong talaga sa laro ko,” Pasaol said.
His impressive play did catch some eyes, which brought Pasaol to FEU’s high school program and started to suit up for the Baby Tams in Season 82. It was a total adjustment for him though, as he came all the way from the province to an organized league in the metropolis. The 19-year-old cager credits his teammates and coaches for making him comfortable in a new setting.
“Galing kasi ako ng Davao, kaya medyo nabigla ako dito sa Manila. Sobrang sistemado kasi ng UAAP. Nahirapan ako ng konti pero sa tulong ng buong team, kinaya ko naman,” Pasaol said when asked about his transition to the UAAP.
Now let’s talk about Pasaol’s game. At first glance, there is a stark difference between him and the older Pasaol, who was bulkier and was more of a scorer. The Baby Tams guard was mostly utilized as a point guard, but for him to become a more lethal threat in the modern game, he needs to be a multi-dimensional player that can score and pass efficiently.
And that is exactly Pasaol’s response as to what particular skill is he keying in for his final year with the Baby Tams.
“Sinabihan ako ni Coach Allan (Albano) na magwork-on pa sa playmaking ko. Kung paano ko gagamitin ‘yung screens, kung kailan ko dapat i-pasa o i-tira ‘yung bola,” Pasaol said.
Pasaol’s rookie year with FEU turned out to be a success, as they were able to reach the Finals. Although the run time for him wasn’t at a high volume (averaging 14 minutes per game), going up against the mighty NU Bullpups gave him enough motivation to come back better as a player.
“Masaya na makalaban namin sila [NSNU], lalo na sila Carl [Tamayo] tsaka Kevin [Quiambao] na maraming nang experience [outside the country]. Nagpa-realize din nila sa akin na marami pa dapat akong i-improve sa laro ko. Kaya motivated ako makabalik sa Finals this season,” said Pasaol.
Now with the upcoming SLAM Rising Stars and his final season with the Baby Tams, it’s time for the younger Pasaol to step up and make the most out of it. The silver lining is that he is self-aware, in that he understands his weaknesses and is up for the challenge.
So if you come across the name John Rey Pasaol in the big league, best believe that it’s because he did it the right way and because of his relentlessness. And yes, it’s in the genes.
[The 2022 SLAM Rising Stars Classic Tournament presented by ANTA tips off on July 30 at the Gatorade Hoops Center]