Kevin Quiambao might still be relatively unknown on the local basketball scene, but that should change over the coming months.
The 21-year-old forward has made the most of his time with Gilas Pilipinas and turned heads with his play in the FIBA Asia Cup earlier this month. In 23.3 minutes per game, he averaged 6.5 points, four rebounds, 4.8 assists, and one steal, highlighted by a nine-assist showing against India followed by a 14-point game versus New Zealand.
Quiambao’s ability to keep up with the physicality of the senior division, despite just being a few years removed from his days playing for the country’s youth team, was quite impressive. However, it was his savvy passing and uncanny ability to read the game that made him stand out the most.
While the handling of the Gilas program has garnered well-deserved criticism during these past few months, giving a chance to younger players like Quiambao–though more of a beautiful accident due to the conflict of the FIBA schedule with the PBA–is a resounding win. The exposure to the international game will only help him and his contemporaries develop into better players.
The immediate returns have been promising as well. Upon returning home from his FIBA duties, the former National University-Nazareth School standout impressed in his PBA D-League debut with EcoOil-La Salle which the team is using to warm-up for the looming UAAP season this October.
The 6’4 Quiambao was La Salle’s best player by far as he racked up 15 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists to lead them past the core of a Letran team that won the NCAA championship just a few months ago. He followed it up the next day with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in a three-point win over Adalem Construction-St. Clare where he hit the game-winning shot with less than 10 seconds remaining in the contest.
Quiambao’s skillfulness was on full display during both matches and he showed a tremendous amount of poise that is beyond his years. He never seemed to be rushing and was unfazed all throughout as he made the right decision practically every time he held the ball.
This bodes well for his upcoming rookie campaign with the DLSU Green Archers who will bank on him to improve on last season’s heartbreaking third place finish in the UAAP. He is likely to immediately step into the starting power forward spot vacated by departing veteran Justine Baltazar and form an imposing big man tandem with reigning UAAP Mythical Team member Michael Phillips.
The partnership between Quiambao and Phillips looked promising in their lone PBA D-League game together versus Letran. The latter will benefit greatly from the latter’s passing ability which should help compensate for his still developing offensive game. The interior presence of Phillips also allows for Quiambao to roam around the perimeter more often and maximize his talents.
Beyond Phillips, Quiambao’s passing will also have two prime targets in the backcourt. Schonny Winston and Evan Nelle, both of whom showed their scoring prowess last season, are expected to thrive on the open looks that he will create for them.
As the top rookie and potentially the best player on one of the most popular college programs in the most well-known amateur league in the country, the days of Quiambao’s relative anonymity are numbered. He is much too talented to fly under the radar and it seems like only a coaching disaster, which happens too often for La Salle unfortunately (See: Bolick, Babes; Cagulangan, JD), can hold him back.
The Kevin Quiambao era is about to begin and it’s going to be one hell of a ride, hopefully not just for the DLSU Green Archers, but for Gilas Pilipinas as well.