Let the madness begin.
After the pageantry in the opening ceremonies that saw matinee idol James Reid and K-Pop star Minzy sing and grind to the crowd’s desire and NBA superstar Steph Curry lead the oath of sportsmanship, the rightful of stars of the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament dutifully took over.
Clutch shots, a failed comeback, and a dawn of a new era highlighted the UAAP’s opening weekend and there were seven players that perfectly embodied the craziness unfolded.
The Inquirer Sports’ Starting 5 weekly ranking is based on the players’ individual numbers and their respective team’s outcomes during the competition week.
Enough explaining and get in with the arguing.
Bright Akhuetie (University of the Philippines, center)
Here comes the start of a new era for University of the Philippines.
Bright Akhuetie had so much hype riding his name even before he got to suit up for the Fighting Maroons, but former main man from University of Perpetual Help gladly returned that investment of emotion.
UP’s center in the middle showed the UAAP why he was such a force in the NCAA putting in 15 points, 18 rebounds, and three blocks in the Fighting Maroons’ 87-58 shellacking of University of the East.
All those numbers made Akhuetie an early standout among centers and he did what without dunking the ball.
CJ Cansino (University of Santo Tomas, small forward)
University of Santo Tomas’ performance in its opening game against National University was, simply pu5, bad to look at.
It wasn’t an offensive masterpiece as the Growling Tigers shot 26-of-90 from the floor and lost to National University, 75-70.
There was, however, a revelation who wore a black-gold jersey and that was rookie CJ Cansino.
The former Juniors’ MVP looked at home in the seniors division pouring in a game-high 20 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter, with 10 rebounds.
It may have come in a loss but the 6-foot-4 forward is ready for the big stage.
Dave Ildefonso (National University, small forward)
NU’s match with University of Santo Tomas wasn’t just an opening game between the two teams but it was also a showdown between two promising rookies.
Cansino was UST’s prized cub and Dave Ildefonso was the Bulldogs’ promising pup.
Ildefonso already showed fortitude in his first game in the collegiate league putting up 19 points and seven rebounds, lower numbers than Cansino’s, but his Bulldogs did get the 75-70 win over the Growling Tigers.
Jerrick Ahanmisi (Adamson University, shooting guard)
Simply put, Jerrick Ahanmisi delivered for Adamson University.
The Falcons’ sweet shooter put up 23 points, the highest in the opening weekend, with four rebounds as he led Adamson to a 74-70 upset win over defending champion Ateneo.
Ahanmisi had a penchant of making shots when time was its end.
He first hit a gorgeous halfcourt shot to beat the halftime buzzer to give the Falcons a 40-39 lead heading into the break.
Not finished with just one highlight play, Ahanmisi then got the green light for an isolation layup play that put Adamson up 70-68 with 1:09 left in the game.
Juan Gomez De Liaño (University of the Philippines, point guard)
Juan Gomez De Liaño is off to a great start in his sophomore season.
Season 80’s Rookie of the Year seems to have prevented an early sophomore slump as he led the Fighting Maroons to an 87-58 humbling of University of the East finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Gomez De Liaño only scored in the first and third quarters, with eight points apiece, but he was barely needed in the fourth with the Fighting Maroons firing on all cylinders in the final 10 minutes.
Matt Nieto (Ateneo de Manila University, shooting guard)
It wasn’t the result the Blue Eagles wanted in their first game in Season 81.
Ateneo went toe-to-toe with Adamson in its first game eventually losing 74-70, but if there was one bright spot in the dark sky the Blue Eagles’ flew in it was Matt Nieto.
Sensing that his team was in shambles in the fourth quarter, Nieto duly took over and poured in 12 of his total 21 points in the final frame.
Nieto already had everything by that point, well, except the win.
Santi Santillan (De La Salle University, power forward)
De La Salle has entered the post-Ben Mbala era, a time that saw two finals trips and one championship.
It’s a new age for the Green Archers but Mbala’s former running mate San Santillan gladly took up the green mantle of being the team’s main presence in the paint.
Santillan’s performance may have come in a 68-61 loss to Far Eastern University but he did show promise being La Salle’s main force underneath with 19 points and 10 boards.
Oh and he also has three three-pointers under his name proving that he doesn’t just lumber around the paint.
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