Amidst the rotating cast of high school stars that have strut their stuff in the SLAM Rising Stars Classic, Harvey Pagsanjan has been a constant. In fact, this year marks Harvey’s fourth time playing in the event. To put this in perspective: in his first selection in the SLAM Rising Stars he was joined by the likes of Ricci Rivero, the de Liano brothers, and Aljun Melecio –– established collegiate cagers in the UAAP.
Harvey understands the significance the annual showcase had in his high school career, especially with the level of talent he has shared the floor with. “Lahat ng mga [players] dito star ng team. Ang laking tulong para sa akin kasi yung confidence ko natutulungan –– para sa high school [leagues], ma-dominate ko yung ibang player,” he said. “Kapag nandito ka, tataas yung tingin ng ibang tao sa ‘yo.
“Siyempre kailangan mo i-prove sa kanila kung bakit ka nandito.”
In this day and age, where high school games are nationally televised and highlights make their rounds online, Harvey doesn’t receive the same level of exposure as his co-Rising Stars. He doesn’t play under the the bright lights of the NCAA or UAAP –– two of the most prominent high school leagues –– so showcases like this are vital for him to prove that he belongs amongst the elite.
But don’t let this lack of TV time fool you. This kid can straight out play. It bears repeating that Harvey has consistently been among the top high school players in the country since 2016 to play in four SLAM Rising Star Classics.
The accolades are indicative enough: Harvey concluded his high school career on a high-note, leading Hope Christian to the mountaintop of the Filipino-Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation (FCAAF) Championship last October to end a six-year drought. He was awarded tournament MVP for his efforts.
The highlight of his high school career though, was his stint the Batang Gilas squad in 2015 that famously dealt China their first ever loss in FIBA Asia U16, draining the triple that jump started the come-from-behind win.
Harvey’s eyes lit up when he began speaking of the historic victory. “Nagboost talaga confidence namin,” he said. “Lalo na noong pagbalik dito lahat ng tao nagsasabi ‘wow tinalo niyo yung China’. Ang sarap ng feeling na na-represent mo yung country at proud pa yung tao kasi tinalo niyo yung big-time team.”
On the court, Harvey has the rare combination of elite talent, off-the-chart athleticism, and cerebral play for a player his age. Harvey’s a swiss-army knife on the court, capable of scoring at will and locking down the opponent’s best perimeter player. The 6’1” guard is a gazelle on the fast break, adept in finishing through contact, with a buttery-smooth jumper to boot –– crucial skills needed to flourish in the collegiate ranks.
Harvey can toggle through four positions, though he has been working on his dribbling and shooting since he will be deployed primarily as a point guard for the University of the East in the UAAP. He understands that the Red Warriors are undergoing a rebuilding phase, but doesn’t expect to play the same ball-dominant role in college. He’s positioning himself more as a hustle player, than a high-usage star.
Showcasing talents under the bright lights may daunting for some, but not for Harvey. He has thrived in high-stake moments, won countless tournaments and awards, and is a certified competitor –– all he needs is a bigger stage to prove what he can do.