Lipa City, Batangas
July 4, 2015
Welcome to the Brightside
As I was enjoying my favorite the day of the week, which is Saturday because I get to spend it with family, when someone rang me up telling me that Season 91 of the NCAA is already abuzz with so many news even though we’re just more than a week into the tournament.
I was also told this NCAA has got to be one of the best, if not the best, seasons he’s seeing.
I have to agree.
You see, after nine seniors games in four different play dates, we were already treated with so many plots and subplots as well as angles and rivalries that us sportswriters and bloggers could use as story lines as the season progresses.
And these first 10 thoughts came to mind:
1. San Beda is no longer the defense-first, grit-and-grind team that we got used to the past decade when it captured eight of the last nine championships including a rare five-peat feat. Since Jamike Jarin took over, he had molded the Lions the way he liked it: a well-oiled, high-scoring team reminiscent of the Phoenix Suns, Steve Nash era.
2. Perpetual Help’s Bright Akhuetie has got to be the best foreign import on this side of the Earth after entertaining us with a 44-point, 19-rebound performance in the Altas’ impressive win over the St. Benilde Blazers recently. His 44-point output is the highest among all the non-Filipino player who walked our soil, including the UAAP. The last highest offensive output by any NCAA player was a 48-point barrage by Jose Rizal’s John Wilson six years ago. And he is just 18 years old.
3. Mapua’s Allwell Oraeme has got to be ranked up there just a little below Mr. Brightside (Akhuetie) after an 18-point, 22-rebound effort in the Cardinals’ triumph over the San Sebastian Stags. And he is just 19 years old.
4. San Beda’s Ola Adeogun will need some waking so we will be reminded that was the alpha dog before Akhuetie and Oraeme landed from the heavens. In fairness, Ola has some hamstring issues that cost him to miss a game so we’ll give the guy a little leeway for him to prove that he is still the king of the hill. Not just the Lion King.
5. The best Filipino player distinction is a toss up between Perpetual Help’s Earl Scottie Thompson, who had posted his first triple-double (14 pts, 12 rebs, 10 assts) this season and fourth overall in the NCAA and Arellano U’s Jio Jalalon, who dished out a season-high 14 assists. San Beda’s Arthur dela Cruz has been filling up the stat sheets and should be somewhere at No. 3. San Sebastian’s Jamil Ortuoste, Mapua’s Josan Nimes and St. Benilde’s Jonathan Grey are somewhere behind. And I’m waiting for San Beda’s Baser Amer to make a run at this as soon as his shoulder heals complete.
6. Aldin Ayo and the Knights are no pushovers. After they slew the Jose Rizal Bombers, one of the teams to beat this year, Letran deserves the apologies of many who wrote the team down in the pre-season, including yours truly. You can’t have a better introduction than this for Aldin Ayo. So we’re sorry from the bottom of our collective hearts.
7. Manny Pacquiao is now part of the NCAA family thanks to his involvement to the Letran team where he is reportedly the team manager. So can we can call the Knights the People’s team since they are managed by the People’s champion?
8. Speaking of Letran, the trio of Kevin Racal, Mark Cruz and Rey Nambatac has got to be the best backcourt rotation in the country. Watching them is like watching Smaug, only, its’ a three-headed dragon. If I were a player not wearing the blue and red, I will be scared and eviscerating on my pants right now.
9. ABS-CBN did an excellent job of bringing the show to everyone at it’s Sports and Action channel with replays on Balls. So congratulations.
10. We sportswriters are benefitting from this fantasy-friendly season since 13 of us brave souls put up the very first NCAA fantasy league. Reuben Terrado of spin.ph and Mark Escarlote of ABS CBN online are leading the way while, ahem, yours truly, is running third, thanks to Bright.
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar.
(Photos courtesy of Tiebreaker Times, Rey Nambatac and Philippine STAR)