Dwight Ramos wasn't someone Jong Uichico was familiar with early on, but the Gilas Pilipinas coach was left with one key takeaway after watching the 22-year-old light it up for the national team in Bahrain.
"I think he's PBA-ready," he said on the 2OT podcast on Friday. "If Gilas is able to utilize him, what more in the PBA where he will be really a factor?"
That's high praise for Ramos, who has already proven himself as a commodity on the international stage even though he has yet to play a single game in the UAAP with Ateneo.
Eight months after a quiet but solid debut in Gilas uniform, Ramos dazzled fans and pundits in the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last November by putting up a pair of remarkable performances in back-to-back games against Thailand.
Ramos was perfect from the field in the first game on Nov. 27 and tallied 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, then he followed it up with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists to close out the window three days later.
His outings were pleasant surprises for Uichico, who admittedly only knew about the Ateneo recruit's game through highlight videos.
"I didn't know how good he was," he said. "He's not very impressive in practice because he's a team player."
After watching Ramos up close, Uichico raved about his all-around game and said the 6-foot-5 guard can excel with his size and vision at the point guard spot.
"He does a little bit of everything, so that first game really surprised me," he said. "He does a little bit of everything -- he can score, he can defend, he's got good vision. He gives you an all-around performance. And he's tall if he plays the point guard position, which is what we need in our team."
Uichico even went as far as to compare Ramos to Danny Seigle, an eight-time PBA All-Star and four-time Finals MVP who won seven titles together with Uichico in San Miguel and TNT.
"He's not very quick, but he's athletic. He's got a strong build, and at the point guard, he's not only a scoring point guard, he has great vision for a point guard, which isn't common nowadays," he explained. "Right now there are either scoring point guards or facilitators, but he gives the team a new dimension because he can create, he can pass the ball and he can make the shots, especially if he has a lot of great players around him."
Ramos has also drawn comparisons to Gabe Norwood, though he thinks he still has ways to go before reaching the Gilas mainstay's level on defense.
"I'm still young, I'm still learning," Ramos said on The Prospects Pod on Saturday. "I watched his game. He's a good defender, so that's what I take from his game. Hopefully I can get up to his level on defense. He's world class, and I'm just trying to be like that too."
Asked about the difference between his two games against Thailand compared to his debut against Indonesia last February, Ramos said he simply had a bigger role for a young Gilas team this time around.
"The ball was probably more in other's people's hands. Just more like I had to play a role, get the ball to other people. But here, maybe I got a bigger role without those guys. I had the ball in my hands more. That's probably the biggest difference," he said.
Ramos could possibly play more games even before suiting up for the Blue Eagles next season, but the incoming Ateneo rookie said he doesn't feel the pressure of having his game translate into the amateurs.
"I'm just excited to play. I don't really think about the pressure," he said. "I mean, it's just basketball. We played how many games in our life. Just more basketball games, really. I don't really see too much pressure in that."
It's possible for Ramos to play another game for Gilas on February, when the national team will play South Korea and Indonesia in the third window of the qualifiers, but stiff competition probably awaits him and other aspirants from the Bahrain roster as PBA players could also be given consideration.
Ramos, however, welcomes the challenge of competing for a slot against pros and other amateur stars in a hybrid pool.
"I think it's good. It's always good to really have top players in the pool. It makes the practice more competitive," he said. "So I think it will be fun once we start practicing for that next window. I don't know who's gonna be there, but whoever they choose is probably gonna be good."