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A new UAAP season is upon us, which means teams will have another chance to throw their entire defensive playbook at reigning MVP Ben Mbala of the De La Salle Green Archers. Good thing for opposing centers, Mbala will be out for at least two games to start the season due to scheduling conflict with the 2017 AfroBasket, where he will represent Cameroon.
Ben Mbala is set to defend his MVP title against several big names. Photo credit: Josh Albelda
Mbala is not the only player expected to wreak havoc in UAAP Season 80. All of the schools have at least one player that deserves a spot on the “Players To Watch Out For” All-Stars. Remember these names.
Jerie Pingoy, Adamson Soaring Falcons
It’s rare for an amateur player to hop from one team to another like a veteran journeyman—even rarer when that player is a highly touted point guard and a two-time Juniors MVP. Years removed from his days as the star player of FEU’s high school team, Pingoy suited up for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in 2015. But academic issues sent Pingoy packing, and he is now playing for his third team, the Adamson Falcons. Interesting to see if Pingoy, in a different shade of blue, can regain his star power under Adamson coach Franz Pumaren.
Juan Gomez de Liano, UP Fighting Maroons
Known as the King Junior Maroon, Juan Gomez de Liano will take his scoring prowess from the high school ranks to college. De Liano was named MVP in the Juniors division of UAAP Season 79, averaging a 19-10-3 line as Up Integrated School’s standout guard. Playing under UP coach Bo Perasol, de Liano is seen to provide much-needed boost to Paul Desiderio and Diego Dario.
Jolo Mendoza, Ateneo Blue Eagles
Thirdy Ravena and Chibueze Ikeh will be Ateneo’s one-two punch in Season 80, but Jolo Mendoza may very well be the steady jab that coach Tab Baldwin will deploy to wear down opponents. As long as his sweet shooting and his confidence are intact, so will the “next Phenom” tag.
Arvin Tolentino, FEU Tamaraws
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve heard it before connected to the words Rookie of the Year. Arvin Tolentino is the same guy who averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds in his rookie year, but he is now wearing FEU colors for Season 80. Out to prove that his debut season was no fluke, Tolentino—reunited with his former youth national team coach Olsen Racela—is on a mission to regain lost glory.
Alvin Pasaol, UE Red Warriors
Expectations weigh heavy on UE forward Alvin Pasaol, who now plays the role of leader following the loss of Red Warrior veterans Renz Palma, Bonbon Batiller and Edgar Charcos. Good thing Pasaol has broad shoulders. If his Filoil preseason performance was any indication (18 points and 6 rebounds per game), then UE coach Derrick Pumaren can rest easy having a guy like Pasaol mentoring a young Red Warriors squad.
Marvin Lee, UST Growling Tigers
UST will now have to rely heavily on the scoring of team captain Marvin Lee, who was probably a three-point basket away from winning Rookie of the Year in Season 78. Spending two years as the instant offense guy off the bench, Lee is expected to carry the scoring load for the Growling Tigers and fill the void left behind by last year’s team captain Louie Vigil.
Issa Gaye, NU Bulldogs
If there’s anyone in the league who can go toe-to-toe, pound-for-pound with UAAP MVP Ben Mbala, it’s NU’s Issa Gaye. Standing at 6-foot-10, Gaye is a legit big man for the Bulldogs, a team still reeling from the departure of Alfred Aroga and Eric Altamirano. It’s a new day for NU in its quest to reclaim the throne, and Gaye is finally unleashed after waiting in the wings for four years.
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