The first round of the UAAP season just ended, and we’re starting to get a feel of who the legitimate title contenders are in the league (read: Ateneo and La Salle), and which teams need a little more fixing before they’re about to add themselves into that group. As it is, the Final Four race looks like it’s going to be a good one.
But that’s not the point of this piece. Let’s have some fun. Instead of talking about teams, we’ll be handing out some midseason hardware to the players who have performed well, or we’ve seen fit to be worthy of recognition. Some of these awards will be legitimately given by the end of the season. Others, however, are just added for pure fun. The criteria? Everything. Stats, wins, intangibles, whatsoever. Think of it like SLAM getting an NBA voting ballot at the end of the season. It’s ultimately up to the writer to vote for whoever he deems fit as worthy of such awards.
With that, here are your UAAP Season 80 Midseason Awards.
Best Player in the League: Ben Mbala. Why did I even decide to mention this? Because Best is not always Most Valuable.
Most Valuable Player: Ben Mbala and Thirdy Ravena. For me, Most Valuable takes into account team record, consistency of high level of play, and overall impact to one team.
Ron Dennison could have taken the cake as MVP, but his inconsistent play on the offensive end is frustrating at times. Alvin Pasaol and JJay Alejandro are worthy as well but they don’t have the record to back it up.
So I’ll go with the two best players in the league. One has a better record than the other, although one is obviously individually more dominant that his competition. But why treat Thirdy as an equal? Because for this season (I repeat, THIS SEASON), Ben hasn’t shown to have much an impact with the quick, free-flowing, motion system Aldin Ayo looks to install into the team. Thirdy? Aside from his blunder versus La Salle in the clutch, has absolutely thrived under Tab Baldwin’s “no-star” mentality.
Top 10 Players in the League:
- Ben Mbala – Duh.
- Thirdy Ravena – Is an absolute physical force, no matter how you put it.
- Ron Dennison – Best two-way local player right now.
- JJay Alejandro – How he’s transformed his game from shooter, to overall scorer is amazing.
- Alvin Pasaol – His team is terrible, but Pasaol individually is a treat to watch. He’s good.
- Paul Desiderio – Has a tendency to chuck a ton of shots, but when he’s hot, he’s fun to watch.
- Papi Sarr – Started out terribly but is now starting to find his groove.
- Jerie Pingoy – Best two-way PG in the league right now. Sorry Kib.
- Jerrick Ahanmisi – Just like Sarr, started out flat, is now starting to heat up.
- Arvin Tolentino – When he does well, he’s a Top 3 player. When he doesn’t, he’s one of the worst.
Most Improved Player: Ron Dennison. Matt Nieto and Thirdy Ravena were also worthy candidates, but how Dennison transformed into “enforcer” to legitimate two-way threat is amazing. He’s been efficient offensively, and he’s looked very comfortable when he has looked to attack.
Rookie of the Year: Juan Gomez de Liano. It isn’t a particularly good rookie class, but that’s not to say Juan hasn’t been good. He has been, showcasing flashes of greatness here and there when he’s allowed to handle the rock by Coach Bo. A Juan GDL-Bright Akuhetie pick and roll with Desiderio and Javi GDL roaming around the wings should be a salivating thought for Fighting Maroons fans.
Coach of the Year: Tab Baldwin. This shouldn’t even be given that long of an explanation. The level of discipline, attention to detail and quick-thinking he’s instilled within Ateneo is beyond me. Collegiate players aren’t supposed to work within such a system this well.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jerie Pingoy. Many of us really thought this guy was done for when he decided to transfer from Ateneo to Adamson. He wasn’t able to translate the game he had in High School to College, and has been labeled a head case by many. This year, he’s been amazing. He has a legitimate case for best point guard in the league (JJay Alejandro is more of a shooting guard), and is definitely a top 10 player. He’s absolutely perfect within Coach Franz’s system.
Shoot your Shot Award: Paul Desiderio. Not only does he shoot his shot, he calls it before taking it too. “Atin ‘to!” For better or for worse, UP sticks with Desiderio. He shoots his shot with zero fear, so let’s give him some love for that.
Cult Hero of the Year: Alvin Pasaol. Look, no point in arguing whether the dude wants a buffet or extra rice. We can go ahead and give him a billion nicknames. The point is? Alvin Pasaol is AWESOME. He’s the type of players Titos should aspire to be.
Jerie Pingoy photo from Akari Sports