MANILA, June 10, 2004
In the next few days, pint-sized Karlo Villanueva, a young Canada-based Filipino cager, will be entering the land of the giants in local caging and likely become among the attractions in the Gran Matador-PBA Fiesta Conference.

A star guard for the University of British Columbia in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) championship, the 5-foot-3 Villanueva, 22, will finally be seen by local basketball fans in action Sunday when the Thunderbirds open their campaign in the PBA transition tourney against the Barangay Ginebra Kings at the Araneta Coliseum.

Whether he’d like it or not, Villanueva would face high expectation once he sets foot on the playing court here–thanks or no thanks to good reports on him in the Canadian papers.

Consider a quotation from UBC coach Kevin Hanson:

"I feel honored and privileged to have coached this guy," said Hanson. "I specifically drill my point guards on how I want our plays to run, but in Karlo’s case I often don’t have to. He and I think so much alike that I often give him the green light to run plays as he sees fit."

Then there’s CIS top gun Pasha Bains being quoted as saying: " He’s (Villanueva) small, but he’s got one of the best basketball IQs I’ve ever seen. I kind of regret not being able to play with him on the university level because he would make my job easier."

Villanueva and Bains used to be high school teammates at Richmond Secondary before parting ways in college and finding themselves clashing in the Canada West Pacific Division finals recently.

Born to Filipino parents Lerito and Leila, Villanueva made a trademark in Canadian basketball during his high school years. He was a two-time MVP of junior provincials, an All-Star at provincial championship all the years he played and named province’s best defensive player and All-Star MVP in his senior year.

He played his rookie year in college in 2000-01 at Ryerson University in Toronto and was named to the OUA East all-rookie team after leading the conference in assists and finishing second in steals.

Then he transferred to UBC where he emerged in no time as the team’s premier point guard.

During the recent 2003-04 campaign, Villanueva started in 35 of 36 games overall and was named to the Canada West second All-Star team after leading the nation with 8.1 assists per game in conference action–second best total in CIS history. He recorded nine double-doubles in points and assists, and dished out 10-plus assists 14 times in the season. He was‘averaging 11.4 points and 9.6 assists in seven playoff games heading to the national finals.

The previous season, he finished third in Canada West in assists (6.0), fifth in assists/turnover ratio (2.1:1) and 10th in steals (1.8). He was the only Thunderbird to start in all 38 games.

Karlo’s father used to be a musician in the Philippines and now works for ICBC while his mother works at the BC Supreme Court. An older brother Justin, 24, played football at SFU.

Karlo is a history major and would like to set into education and teach secondary school if he fails to make the grade in the PBA.

Judgment days for Karlo would be his stint in the Gran Matador-PBA Fiesta Conference.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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