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.
Excuse me, but can you spare a moment to hear the gospel of UE’s lord and savior, Alvin Pasaol?
Fan of the Red Warriors or not, you’ve no doubt heard of the name by now. How could you not, when last season, Pasaol infamously tallied 49 points with 66% FG% on La Salle’s even more infamous Mayhem Defense—rest in peace—the second highest scoring output in league history. The game ended in a loss and UE finished the game still without a win. But that somehow didn’t matter.
It was a baptism for the young UE captain; his triumphant entry as an omnipotent and unmerciful scorer.
But do you believe?
Do you believe that Pasaol is UE’s long awaited messiah—a gunner without conscience in the mould of James Yap, or a generational, game-changing talent like Robert Jaworski? Do you believe that Pasaol’s sovereign will is enough to carry the Red Warriors, not to the championship obviously, but to holy-crap-we’re-seeing-a-miracle relevance? Do you believe that Pasaol is the patron saint of unrepentant bwakaws, the redeemer of the destitute fanbase, the deacon of the Church of Ate Tatlong Extra Rice?
Faith often defies reason—that’s why it often requires a leap—but I believe Pasaol showed us just enough last season for us to take that leap together.
For starters, Pasaol ranked second in the league in scoring in 2017—behind only Ben Mbala—averaging 18.5 PPG with a 39% field goal percentage. For comparisons sake, in his last year with the Bulldogs, Ray Parks averaged 18.3 PPG with a 36% field goal percentage. You can attribute those numbers to the fact that both happen to be starters on the ‘Good Stats, Bad Team All-Stars.’ And with Ben Mbala off to even greener pastures, there’s no reason to think that Pasaol isn’t going to lead the league in scoring.
It helps that Pasaol has all the tools he needs to lay significant damage in the UAAP. Alvin possesses a streaky, quick release three that requires defenders to stay up in his face, but he also has a great combination of speed, heft, and timing so that he can blow by bigger, slower defenders when they get too close. Pasaol’s midrange post-up game is also something that constantly demands the defender’s respect—something he can lean on when his team is desperate for a basket.
Pasaol can score, we’ve established that much, but a nice asterisk to those numbers is that Pasaol still has miles to improve in other parts of his game. A 39% field goal percentage, while being the only guy high-pressure, trap-heavy defenses have to worry about is totally respectable. A 59% free throw rate and a 29% three-point percentage? Not so much.
In his career-defining game against the Archers, Pasaol went 4 for 9 in the free throw category. Make just one more of those, and Pasaol cracks 50-point territory. Make all of them? And it’s a one-point ball game against the La Sallians.
Free throws make a vital part of Pasaol’s deadly arsenal. Last season, Pasaol ranked 4th in attempts per game—an enviable byproduct of his uncanny ability to drive to the basket, despite all the extra weight he’s carrying. Whether Pasaol can crank that average up to the 70 to 80 percent range will be an interesting subplot to watch, not just for UE’s standings, but also for Pasaol’s pedigree as a scorer.
Pasaol’s three-point shot also leaves a lot of room for improvement. Not in terms of mechanics or reliability; graded under those parameters, the Red Warrior’s shot is fine. However, it’s the consistency and shot selection that needs to get better.
Pasaol was second in three-pointers attempted per game last season, barely making two triples per game. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a chucker, it just means that the dude is tired making his own shot every damn play. Once again, his stroke is fine. But if new head coach Joe Silva can swing the ball enough to get Pasaol some open looks from three, you can expect him to start raining more threes from the heavens.
Having said all that, I need to reemphasize that even if Pasaol checks all those boxes this season, UE will not be making it to the Final Four. Not by a long shot. One man can only do so much. And to be sure, there will be games when Pasaol’s shot volume and selection will do more harm than good for the Red Warriors. But such is the life of a one-man army. Pasaol giveth, and he taketh away.
And that’s okay. Pasaol doesn’t have to bring home the gold to Recto for us to recognize that he’s one of the league’s best talents. In an era of super-organized, super-stacked superteams, it’s ironically become refreshing to see a player unleash as much hell as he can muster all by himself.
I’ve joined the cult of Alvin Pasaol. See you on church this Saturday.
UAAP Season 81 Previews:
The Demolition Brothers Tag Team in NU
Franz Pumaren’s Flight Back to the Top
Arvin Tolentino’s Magical MVP Run