Before we start handing out the midseason hardware, some notes to consider:
- We’ll use different criteria when it comes to giving out the MVP award, since the context of the High School level is so different compared to the Seniors’ Division and the pros are so different. Value is still king, but other factors such as overall performance are regarded more highly.
- We’ll also be giving out a “Best Blue-Chip” award to recognize who could attract the most attention come recruitment season (if it hasn’t started already). There are players who don’t win MVP, but are still regarded as the best player in that batch (Kiefer Ravena of the Class of 2011, Arvin Tolentino of the Class of 2014).
- We won’t be giving a Sixth Man award since the concept of the sixth man is confusing in the High School level. The line-up changes per game are maddening.
- We also won’t be giving Rookie of the Year, since it’s not really THAT important of an award in the High School level. We’ll stick to the basic awards that matter to the fans.
- Mythical Teams are selected regardless of position.
On to the awards:
Most Valuable Player: CJ Cansino, UST Tiger Cubs
If we were just basing this award off stats, CJ Cansino would be a lock to win (and he probably will in real life). He’s averaging otherworldly numbers (27.6 PPG, 14.6 RPG) while leading the UST Tiger Cubs to the third best record in the league. But, as always, there’s more to CJ’s value than the numbers that he produces on the daily basis.
It wouldn’t be crazy to say that CJ is UST’s system. Take him out of the team, and the Tiger Cubs would be a mess. He’s commands most of the possessions of the team, with most of these ending in a CJ basket. He gets most of his buckets off strong drives (smart as well, he knows where and HOW to go to his spots), and he can hit the occasional three-pointer when needed. Because of how talented he is with putting the ball in the basket, he attracts a ton of attention from the defensive end, leading to easier baskets for his teammates. CJ’s value cannot be questioned.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kai Sotto, Ateneo Blue Eaglets
Kai Sotto epitomizes the “There’s always more to value than stats” argument that always gets thrown around when talking about the MVP. He has good numbers (12.9 PPG, 12.7 RPG), but they don’t pop out quite like Cansino’s. If there is one number though that has received a ton of attention from fans, it’s his 4.9 blocks per game.
That number leads the entire league, not just individually, but collectively as well. Kai Sotto, just him, only him, averages more blocks than ALL the teams, as a collective unit, in the league.
The funny thing is, that number doesn’t even fully capture his value to the Blue Eaglets. He is the reason why the Ateneo defense works as it is. His sheer presence as a rim protector down low, allows the Ateneo guards to gamble for steals when playing one on one, or to even take a break when defending the pick and roll. After all, if all else fails, that seven-foot freak is there to either block the shot, or at the very least, get offensive players thinking. If Steph Curry bends defenses because of his sheer offensive skill, Kai bends offenses because of his elite defense.
Best Blue-Chip Award: SJ Belangel, Ateneo Blue Eaglets
There was an argument to be made for SJ Belangel as last year’s MVP versus Juan Gomez de Liano, but the same can’t be said this season. Cansino has been better than SJ individually, while Kai is clearly the one who makes the Blue Eaglets defense what it is. But, if we’re talking about who would college teams will actively go after by the end of the recruitment season, the title easily goes to SJ.
In fact, as early as last year, there was already an argument to be made for SJ as the best High School basketball player. Right now, he probably easily gets that title with some who may make a case for Joel Cagulangan of the LSGH Greenies or even Will Gozum of the Mapua Red Robins. The reason for that is the same as to why he was so highly regarded last year: He’s an all-around beast who is clearly ready to play in the college level.
The scary thing is, he’s actually gotten a bit better. He still makes some careless turnovers, but he’s improved on his jumper (Still a work in progress, but it’s better!), while his playmaking remains elite. He’s still one of the best rebounding guards in High School basketball, while the intangibles such as his leadership and high basketball IQ continue to shine. Simply put, he’s a point guard any team would want to run their offense. SJ is the best blue-chip thus far, and it isn’t even close at this point.
Mythical First Team
Forward: CJ Cansino, UST Tiger Cubs (27.6 PPG, 14.6 RPG)
Center: Kai Sotto, Ateneo Blue Eaglets (12.9 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 4.9 BPG)
Guard: SJ Belangel, Ateneo Blue Eaglets (16.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.7 SPG)
Guard: LJay Gonzales, FEU Baby Tamaraws (12.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.6 SPG) – Inefficiency and instability hurts his case as best blue-chip, but he’s an all-around force any team would be glad to hone and polish in the Collegiate level
Guard: RJ Abarrientos, FEU Baby Tamaraws (14.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.0 APG) – Has proved to be the Pippen to the Jordan of Gonzales, provides so much for the Baby Tamaraws on both ends of the floor
Mythical Second Team
Forward: Dave Ildefonso, Ateneo Blue Eaglets (12.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.6 APG)
Guard: Joem Sabandal, Adamson Baby Falcons (16.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.2 SPG)
Center: Raven Cortez, DLSZ Junior Archers (12.6 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.3 BPG)
Forward: Rhayyan Amsali, NU Bullpups (13.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG)
Forward: Jason Credo, Ateneo Blue Eaglets (8.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.7 SPG)