Two seasons ago, Joel Cagulangan was the little engine that powered La Salle Greenhills to their maiden NCAA high school basketball crown. The point guard broke out of his shell as he earned the Finals MVP and a spot in the Mythical Team through an eye-popping 16.2 points, 6.8 boards, 5.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game elimination round performance.
It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the opposition put his name on top of the scouting report in the following season, hassling and harrying the young guard to send him crashing back down to Earth.
A year later, the unthinkable happened. Joel got even better and could hardly be stopped.
Despite the disappointment of conceding their high school title in Season 94, La Salle Greenhills could be proud to have developed their third MVP in just six years. After Troy Mallillin and Prince Rivero, it was the young court general’s turn in the limelight as the cream of the crop of the NCAA. Joel elevated his game even further in his last hurrah as a Greenie, putting up 18.7 points, 7.1 assists, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.1 steals averages in the elimination round.
It was as if the taste of success spurred him to hunt for it more ferociously.
Aside from being a knockdown scorer from beyond the arc, a crafty finisher in the paint, and having a keen eye for the pass, what stands out is the hustle and desire that exudes from Joel on the court. The 6.1 rebounds per game number is a testament of what a lot of effort can manufacture despite the limitation of possessing just a 5’9″ frame in a game of giants.
Up next for Joel is a step into the cutthroat collegiate ranks, where his MVP triumph in the Juniors is less of a trophy and more of a glaring target. Wearing the MVP crown on the move up to college could prove to be more of a burden than some people may realize, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him take the expectation in his stride.
Joel has tasted the gold for both his team and his own individual play at the high school level, now that he is going to take the leap into wildfire of college ball, why should he settle for any less?
The SLAM Rising Stars Classic will be held on March 31, 7PM to 9PM, at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. The game will be aired on ABS-CBN Sports via livestream.