MANILA, Philippines — Nic Cabanero received a piece of advice from La Salle point guard Evan Nelle after University of Santo Tomas absorbed a 77-72 loss — its 13th consecutive defeat — to end the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cabanero was comforted by his fellow former San Beda Red Cub moments after Nelle erupted for a season-high 25 points to complete a come-from-behind win that kept La Salle alive for a playoff for No.4 with Adamson.
Nelle told the sophomore Tiger to work on his leadership, believing that Season 86 is going to be Cabanero’s year.
“Continue to work hard. It’s his league next year. He’s putting up MVP numbers. I just told him to continue what he’s doing. He just said that he just needs to work on his leadership. At least he knows what he needs to do. He said he’d take the league by storm,” shared Nelle during La Salle’s postgame interview.
The UST leading scorer, who had 17 points, five rebounds, and four assists coming off the bench, appreciated the gesture of Nelle, who inspired him to help his team to become better next year after a 1-13 finish.
“Kuya Evan is one of the players I look up to, especially when we were at San Beda. I was touched hearing those words from him,” Cabanero said in Filipino. “But it’s not just about me, it’s more about my teammates. It can’t be just me. We will rise together as a team.”
Cabanero unleashed a career-best 33 points to open UST’s season with a 69-60 victory over Adamson last October 1. But the Growling Tigers had since lost 13 straight games to end up at the bottom of the standings.
Despite the strings of frustrating losses, the 6-foot-2 winger took it in stride and credited some improvements from his team in the latter part of the tournament, which he hopes to build on heading to next season.
“We went through a lot of adjustments and struggles. Despite that, we still showed improvement by the end of this season. But I hope by next season, we will have better chemistry and become more solid as a team,” Cabanero said.
Cabanero, who averaged 17.75 points, 6.75 rebounds, and 2.75 assists in 30 minutes of playing time prior to their final game of the season, seeks to become an all-around player involving his teammates more.
“I want to involve my teammates. Not only focusing on scoring. I want to improve my defense, playmaking, and rebounds. That’s what always coach [Bal David] has been telling me to involve more of your teammates. Every game, I should adjust,” he said.