We need to talk about Kevin, Gilas' big man with ''Nikola Jokic vibes''
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Kevin Quiambao looks up to Nikola Jokic so much that he's trying to pattern his game after the Serbian superstar the best he can.
"[The passing] comes from Nikola Jokic. I want to imitate him."
And that is precisely the reason behind the highlight-worthy assists that the 21-year-old has been pulling off in the pair of games he's played so far with the Philippines in the ongoing FIBA Asia Cup 2022.
"Nikola Jokic is my super idol," said the soft-spoken youngster, who only joined the seniors' team in the recent World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers window.
Quiambao lit up social media on Friday night as he left many in awe with the brilliant passing he displayed in their 101-59 win over India.
From bounce passes to cutting teammates, to those nifty drop passes to fellow bigs underneath, and to even cross-court kick-outs, he did practically everything. He ended up with a game-high nine assists in the triumph.
"It comes from Nikola Jokic," said the 1.93 M (6'4") forward, who also finished with six points, three rebounds, and a steal in 18 minutes in an outing that saw him tally an efficiency rating of 18.
"I want to imitate him."
But while Jokic, the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, is known ever since as a gifted passer, Quiambao is only getting started.
He is actually in the midst of a transition. From playing the center position during his high school years not long ago, he's now trying to broaden his skill set to become more capable of playing either the three or four spots.
Quiambao won't deny that it's been challenging, "It's been hard," he admitted. "The transition from big man to stretch four is a learning process."
But so far, he has been doing a remarkable job. He's now among Asia Cup 2022's assists leaders after Friday, together with Chen Ying-chun, Yuki Kawamura, and Will White as they all average 6.5 dimes a game.
"It's very rare to encounter a talent like KQ," said Gilas captain Kiefer Ravena. "He gives so much Nikola Jokic vibes. He's a great teammate, an awesome teammate. You just have to be ready when he throws those dimes."
"You gotta be ready to shoot," he added. "He puts us in a good position to score. That's what we love about him. He's a great young talent."
"I definitely love being with him on the court," added Thirdy Ravena. "It's not everyday that you come across such an intelligent and aggressive passer like Kevin, so just him being inside makes me be focused more in getting to my spots because you know that whenever the defense reacts to what the offense does and he has the ball, he’ll most likely be able to spot that in an instant and kick it."
"Being in the court with a guy like him just makes life so much easier. Distributing the ball from a big man position, it’s a bit rare in our game nowadays."
Head coach Chot Reyes, though, is hardly surprised with what Quiambao is doing, saying that the latter has always been on the radar of the program ever since high school, where he was teammates with Carl Tamayo.
"Every time there are opportunities, there are windows or tournaments, we find out who is available. We've always wanted to get a chance to test Kevin."
"There were other guys who weren't available like Balti [Justine Baltzar]. That gives an opportunity to Kevin. I know he is a surprise to a lot, but he's always been in the radar of the Gilas coaches," he said.
Quiambao and Co. will be put to the test on Sunday against New Zealand. And surely, eyes will be on him if he can still pull off those dimes against the Tall Blacks, a team hungry to bounce back after losing to Lebanon.
"There were times during the last game that the openings weren't there and he was still trying to force those passes. Against New Zealand, it's going to be different. But we don't want to take that away from him," Reyes said.
"It's his strength and it's a luxury to have such a good passer in that position. It wasn't anything consciously that we wanted him to do for this game. It was just us allowing him to play into his strengths," he added.