Manila, Philippines – The Energen U16 team is gaining quite a following these days. Of course all eyes are on PBA Legend Roderick “Olsen” Racela since this will be his first official duty as head coach for the Philippines but there is this 16 year old player from Xavier School in San Juan making waves.
He goes by the name of Kyles Jefferson Lao, a pesky lefty guard that has been making waves over at the FIBA-Asia U-16 Championships in NHA TRANG CITY, Vietnam.
Little has been known about Kyles. The only thing most people know about him is that he hails from Xavier School, a breeding ground that has produced the likes of Joseph Yeo, Ty Tang and Chris Tiu.
At only 16, Kyles has been around. He has been a familiar fixture of Xavier basketball. He is a constant member of the varsity team since elementary where he was averaging monster numbers.
Having coached kids since 2004, Kyles was introduced to me by his elder brother Louie. This was way back in 2008 where Louie played for me in the usual Summer Leagues. He batted for his brother to be included in the Midgets team that year and said that I wouldn’t be sorry.
Kyles played for that team but at the age of 13, I was keeping a close eye on Kyles, not to see him play good ball but more of to make sure that he would not get hurt.
Kyles was going up against boys about 4 times older than him since the age limit set was 17 and below. It was more than just getting a jersey for Kyles, it was more of his love for the game.
Kyles was given the opportunity to play at times, normally when our team already had the game won. But as in most leagues, physical plays and dirty tactics could not be counted out and this was one of the main reasons why Kyles was used sparingly.
He had his moments. He would be more offensive minded, shooting or penetrating while making unbelievable shots.
Defensive wise, he would be bullied by the bigger and older players which left me with no choice but to bench him in favor of older and wider-bodied teammates he had back then.
Our team eventually won the championship but Kyles was nowhere in sight, perhaps knowing he would not be used anyway. But if getting hurt at the expense of a championship is a cost, Kyles would definitely be used for it.
Years passed and Kyles continued to play ball for Xavier. I would occasionally see him play in the Tiong Lian Leagues where Xavier has been one of the powerhouse teams dominating the league.
When you talk about Xavier, all eyes are on Jeron Teng. The “big man” son of former PBA player Alvin Teng has been a dominant force as well, leaving Kyles and his buddies as supporting casts.
But now, Kyles has shown he has matured and is making waves over in Vietnam. He got injured but now everyone is wishing that he would heal faster and help out coach Olsen and the Energen U16 team for a more memorable finish.
And as per his brother, the foot has healed and he will finally play.
The latest update on the U16 team is that they won over Iraq, 82-69. This means that coach Racela and his boys have qualified for the semifinals and will now face South Korea.
There are a lot of names to mention for the success of the U16 team but at this point, it is just fitting that I express my heartfelt thanks for having been able to handle Kyles Lao before.
In all, the boy who I was afraid to field in for the fear of getting hurt has evolved into one fine player that is giving opponents (from other countries at that!) headaches.
Good luck Kyles, your future looks a lot bright now. Just don’t forget to carry the same humility you had when I first met and handled you.
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