UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament is proving to be unpredictable. No one knows who will win against whom and the championship title is up for grabs for any team that pushes hard to claim it.
Fans go crazy over stalwart players Jerrick Ahanmisi of Adamson, Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo, and Paul Desiderio of UP, among others. But there are new names that are making some noise. In recognition of their stellar performance in the first round, here are the rookies who are stealing the spotlight.
Jerom Lastimosa – Adamson University
This 5-foot-10 rookie was playing for Asian College in Dumaguete City in the UniGames when a recruiter first spotted him. His skills outshined even the professional players during the D-League tournament and bagged the UAAP Skills Tournament Championship. Though still a newbie, Lastimosa paced with veterans Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti that helped Adamson soar past Ateneo in their first round clash.
SJ Belangel – Ateneo de Manila University
Belangel, who is a two-time Mythical Five member during his Blue Eaglets days, boosted Ateneo in their winning game against University of Santo Tomas. Down the stretch, he knocked down back-to-back shots. If he remains consistent with his remarkable play, he might just be the weapon that the defending champs need to retain the top spot.
L-Jay Gonzales – Far Eastern University
A standout player from the Baby Tamaraws, the 5-foot-10 guard is known for his Russell Westbrook-like moves. He’s still adjusting in the senior’s, but shone the brightest after helping fellow Tams Arvin Tolentino and Kenneth Tuffin win against National University, 73-68.
Encho Serrano – De La Salle University
Serrano, a 5-foot-11 forward, used to play for the Adamson Baby Falcons before transferring to La Salle. This 18-year-old swingman, who averaged 19.3 points in 58 percent shooting, proved why he was regarded by the National Basketball Training Center as a top high school player in 2016 when he blasted the University of the East in the first round with back-to-back triples.
Dave Ildefonso – National University
6-foot-4 winger Dave Ildefonso left Ateneo High School after helping it with its first championship in three years. He joined his brother Shaun at National U, where his father Danny works with coach Jamike Jarin. This former Batang Gilas has clearly showed great tenacity and grittiness needed in the game and averaged 17.5 points in the first round of the UAAP. NU is at the bottom of the standings with a 2-5 card, so Idelfonso and his team need to make their move in the second round.
Jan Sobrevega – University of the East
Sobrevega was among the top shooters of the De La Salle Zobel Junior Archers and is now a prize recruit of the Red Warriors. Even though he’s playing under the shadows of veterans Alvin Pasaol and Philip Manalang, this rookie contributed big baskets in the first round.
Will Gozum – University of the Philippines
This NCAA Season 93 Juniors MVP is playing well for State U, averaging 13.8 points and 9.9 rebounds. Gozum stands at 6-foot-6 and played big for UP after having been entrusted by coach Bo Perasol at the defensive end.
CJ Cansino – University of Santo Tomas
Swingman CJ Cansino wasted no time proving why he’s been dubbed the “Super Rookie” of season 81. Besides bagging the UAAP Juniors MVP award last year against Ateneo’s Kai Sotto, Cansino exploded a double-double record in his first game in the tournament and continues to dominate the stat sheets for UST.