It’s quite apt that the UAAP is rolling with the theme “It all begins here” for the new season. The 81st season of the league feels like a fresh start, not just for several teams competing, but for the league itself.
UAAP Season 81 is all about new beginnings.
In Season 81, you will either love or hate Aljun Melecio.
Regardless of what university you go to, there is a high possibility that Melecio will either give you a cause to celebrate or scratch your head every time he pulls up for a jumper. The simple reason for that is because this pocket of buckets has the green light to shoot. Make no mistake Melecio will take it every chance he gets.
If the UAAP had a dictionary, the term “volume shooter” would probably have Melecio’s photo right beside it. The point guard is known for his high scoring potential, and the La Salle Green Archers’ coaching staff knows just how much of a weapon it could be.
The third-year gunner has mastered the art of never letting a single miss shake his confidence. No matter how many misses the young Lasallian heaves, he will keep on shooting as if his hands were perpetually on fire. Unfortunately, this means that Melecio is far from efficient. In Season 80, the Lasallian shot with a 31.1 percent clip from the field through 161 attempts. From beyond the arc, Melecio led his team in attempts with 96 and only converted 25.
You will either love him for the shots he makes or end up throwing your arms up in the air in frustration over his shot selection.
So why give this guy the green light to shoot? Well, Melecio has proven throughout his time in La Salle that he can get you points in a hurry, make clutch baskets, and even carry a whole team’s offense if necessary.
To get glimpse at how destructive Melecio could be, take a look back what he did in the first two games of UAAP Season 80. The Green Archers were playing without Ben Mbala who was out due to international duties with Cameroon. During this stretch Melecio shined and chalked up an average of 24.5 points per game in 41 shot attempts in winning efforts.
A quick look at the sorts of shots Melecio was making in that run felt like you had to guard the La Salle Zobel product no matter where he was on the court. Even if opposing teams put a guy on him, he seemed to always find a way to get the bucket.
Two games is a small sample size, but there is a good reason why that amazing start came to a screeching halt for Melecio.
When the then-reigning MVP Mbala returned to action for La Salle in their third game of Season 80, Melecio took the backseat and only attempted seven shots in 32 minutes. With Mbala back in the picture, it was sensible for everyone to play off the best player in the UAAP once again.
Even with Mbala’s dominance and Ricci Rivero’s rise, Melecio finished Season 80 with an average of 10.5 points per game, trailing only the two in terms of scoring average for the Green Archers.
Now that Mbala left the UAAP and Rivero found a new home in UP, there is suddenly an opening for a brave soul to take up the cudgels and provide scoring for La Salle. Guess who wouldn’t be afraid to take a shot at that responsibility?
Apart from Melecio you still have his fellow back court partners Kib Montalbo and Andrei Caracut, Santi Santillian, Justine Baltazar, and maybe even rookie Encho Serrano as viable sources for scoring. All of them could provide the Taft-based squad with offensive firepower and do a great job at it. With all that talent around the La Salle bench, no player would have to carry the load on their own. This is a Green Archers side that could damage you in a variety of ways, be it from their dynamic guards or their skilled big men.
But let’s be honest, there is a very real chance that Melecio will dominate the La Salle offense this coming season. He is, after all, the most volatile weapon in La Salle’s arsenal.
Despite a change in the head coach for La Salle over the off-season, coach Louie Gonzales seems to have a lot of faith in Melecio based on their pre-season tournaments. So seeing the former Rookie of the Year take the lion’s share of the attempts won’t be surprising. The third-year guard has shown that he has what it takes to hit the court with the confidence and the audacity to get his shots up. By that virtue, Melecio may be the guy that would provide the fuel to ignite the La Salle war machine in Season 81.
He’s coming into Season 81 more experienced. Since it is his third year in the league, he should have figured out by now how to effectively get his shots up. Perhaps the added responsibility of being the top scorer left from the previous year could push Melecio back to the high scoring exploits we saw in the opening games of last season. Melecio could be the cure for any separation anxiety the Green Archers may experience missing their two best players from last season.
This is a kid is a potential fireball on the court, and allowing him to take all his shots increases his chances of exploding. Melecio will shoot his shot no matter what, and he will either wow you or frustrate you. Welcome to the gun show.
UAAP Season 81 Previews: