Rhenz Abando clutched his MVP trophy at center court, but the finest baller of the NCAA Season 97 men’s basketball tournament wanted a far bigger prize than the most prestigious individual reward.
“I’m very happy, but our job is not yet done. I’m not contented with these awards, it wasn’t even planned. I have only one goal and that is to win the championship,’’ said Abando, who likewise captured the Rookie of the Year accolade and installed himself in the Mythical Five selection.
Abando’s craving for a collegiate title didn’t pan out at the University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP and his transfer to the defending champion Letran Knights could make that dream a reality.
“We were short the last time I played in the Finals. My main goal for transferring here is to finally get a (championship) trophy,’’ said Abando, who compiled a players average value of 48.44 points after logging averages of 15.73 points, 6.36 rebounds, 1.73 assists and 1.27 blocks.
These figures helped propel the defending champion Knights to a return trip to the Finals and Abando as the MVP of the season for Letran since Raymond Almazan accomplished the feat in 2013.
The 6-foot-2 forward, who hails from Sto. Tomas, Pangasinan, was the fourth Rookie-MVP of the league after Mapua’s Allwell Oraeme in 2015, San Beda’s Sam Ekwe in 2006 and Gabby Espinas of Philippine Christian University in 2004.
Arellano center Justin Arana led the stats sheets with a 58.75 PAV, but was rendered ineligible for the MVP plum after the Chiefs didn’t progress to the Final Four.
Joining Abando and Arana in the Mythical Team were Letran’s Jeo Ambohot (47.22 PAV), St. Benilde’s Will Gozum (46.88 PAV) and season scoring champion JM Calma of San Sebastian (41.77 PAV).
Arana, however, clinched the Defensive Player of the Year award with Emilio Aguinaldo College’s Nat Cosejo, Lyceum’s Omar Larupay, Gozum, Ambohot and Calma accompanying him in the All-Defensive Team.
Mapua’s Paolo Hernandez, who jumped from 35th to 10th in statistics this season, was adjudged Most Improved Player of the season while the sportsmanship award went to the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta Altas.