The FilOil Flying V Pre-Season Cup is upon us, and the next thing you know, it’ll be a new season of the UAAP. Now, we enjoy preseason leagues the same way we way we enjoy Marvel’s post-credit scenes that tease their next movie: It’s a preview of what’s to come, and while it’s also far too little information to say for sure, people can’t help but make hot takes in either direction. Let’s talk ’em through, Serrano-style.
Number Juan: Juan Gomez De Liaño is the best player in UP.
Wait Juan Minute: He went 0-3 in the first 24 hours of competition. Why are we having this conversation?
Number Juan: Because he kept the UP Fighting Maroons and the Gilas Cadets in contention, totaling 44 points and staying on the floor in the until the end of each match. In the Fighting Maroon’s match against Mapua, his back-to-back threes got them within two with 27 seconds to go—a proper chance, had the Cardinals not gotten away with an escape layup and free-throws. He was a bright spot in the fourth quarter, and had they won, he would have been player of the game.
Wait Juan Minute: Speaking of bright spots—Bright Akhuetie made 30 points to Juan’s 12, and even added 18 rebounds. That’s one hell of a double-double, and they wouldn’t have stayed close without him, either. It’s been a full year of sports anchors and writers beating us over the head with the “Future Is Bright” pun, and that’s because Bright has the potential to be the game changer for UP in the same way that Ben Mbala made the DLSU Green Archers feel untouchable. As talented as Juan is—Rookie of the Year, duh—it’s Akhuetie’s addition to the team that is expected to complete UP’s lineup and take them to the Final Four level.
Number Juan: Bright’s a physically dominant guy, sure, but that doesn’t make him more important by default. Don’t forget that Juan helped lead the team of a decade-best record of 6-8 last UAAP season.
Wait Juan Minute: …With Paul Desiderio, who’s also on the Gilas Cadets team. You know, Paul “Atin ‘to, Papasok Ito” Desiderio. Paul “Game-Winner, Heart-Breaker” Desiderio.
Number Juan: First off, I blame those shots for the uptick of UAAP and NCAA teams (and not just basketball, mind you) yelling “Atin ‘to, Papasok Ito” as if it’s some magic spell, and then not making the shot. As beastly as those shots were in the moment, they’re less sustainable than Juan’s more balanced performance. Drop him in any team, and he can gel.
Wait Juan Minute: Where are his game-winners, though???
Number Juan: Desiderio gets more looks, that’s all. The challenge for him now that the Gilas Cadets are playing in the FilOil Cup is to involve is teammates and trade volume shooting for efficiency. We haven’t seen that yet.
Wait Juan Minute: It’s only been a week. Meanwhile, the task for Juan is to prove he can lead at the collegiate level, just like he did for UP’s juniors, teaching (or perhaps infecting) the Fighting Maroons with his composure. We haven’t seen that either, since it’s the two guards (and now Bright) remain the team’s top scorers.
Number Juan: But between the two, Juan is in much better condition. Two of the three games he played in 24 hours were on the same day, and you could see Desiderio visibly winded. Juan stayed in the games longer, and even when he started cramping up, told his coach not to sub him out. It’s only been a week.
Wait Juan Minute: Give it time.
Number Juan: Yeah, the tournament’s got a long way to go.
Wait Juan Minute: You get my point.
Number Juan: I do. Juan Gomez De Liaño is the best player on the UP squad.
Wait Juan Minute: No, Juan Gomez De Liaño is not the best player on the UP squad. At least, not yet.
What do you think?