Evan Nelle gets his vindication as he leaves La Salle a UAAP champion
MANILA, Philippines — After heartbreaks in his first two years with the La Salle Green Archers, Evan Nelle’s UAAP career ended in vindication.
Nelle got the exit he had envisioned as the Green Archers showed they could win it all, beating the University of the Philippines in 3 games in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball Final.
“What an exit. Who would’ve thought? At the start of my La Salle career, who would’ve thought that we would have won? I guess, it’s just believing and putting in the work,” said Nelle after celebrating with his teammates at the dugout as they ended the school’s seven-year title drought.
Nelle helped La Salle get the better of the UP, 73-69, in a pressure-packed Game 3 on Wednesday before a record-breaking 25,192 fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The graduating guard had a bold statement last season claiming they would be the No.1 team only for the Green Archers to miss the Final Four after losing to Adamson in a playoff.
His prediction came a year too late, but Nelle will take it nevertheless.
‘Sweet revenge’ for Nelle
“It’s funny. You know, whatever, you have to back it up. Last year I did not. I think this year, I did. So goodnight guys,” Nelle said.
“In my first year, my team won the championship but I didn’t play much. In my last year, I was able to play more and we even won the title. It’s kind of… it’s a feeling of vindication. The way I put it. I got to contribute to my team. It feels so good. I don’t know. I don’t have perfect words for it,” he added.
Nelle also exorcised the ghost of his past by beating UP, which eliminated La Salle in the Final Four with a comeback win in their do-or-die game. The Green Archers recovered from a 30-point blowout in Game 1, 97-67, fighting back in Game 2 with an 82-60 win to force a decider.
“I don’t really think of that pero if you say it like that, grabe, sweet revenge. I’m just thinking of my teammates, my guys. This is something else,” said the La Salle point guard.
“I prayed for this. I really did. Of course, when you start to play bad and you lose, doubts would start to kick in. I said earlier, my teammates are the first one to put my head up and push back the eagerness to achieve this goal. I would have not done anything without them. I think I’ve had stronger teams before but this one, this camaraderie of this group is second to none,” he added.
Nelle wants to cherish his first and last UAAP championship before thinking about his future.
“Punta muna ako sa Henry Sy. We’ll celebrate first. I haven’t really talked to anybody yet about… I’m gonna leave it to boss Charlie Dy,” he said.
— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) December 6, 2023