WORDS by Miguel Caramoan
In nine games that the Adamson Soaring Falcons have played thus far in Season 85, they have understood that Jerom Lastimosa couldn’t do it by himself. And for them to keep in pace in this ever competitive race to make the Final Four, any sort of help would be necessary. That is exactly what Cedrick Manzano has recently provided for Adamson.
Manzano had already flashed great upside in his rookie year, with averages of 6.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in around 15 minutes of action back in Season 84. A statistical nugget provided by Stats by Ryan also proved the efficiency of Manzano (even with relatively low minutes) through VORP, which is the most precise metric to measure offensive impact, where he ranked second (0.54) among the whole team and only behind Lastimosa (1.26).
This impressive showing was then followed by a spectacular offseason by Manzano. Playing a total of 13 games in two preseason tournaments the Soaring Falcons joined, he had much better averages of 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 19 minutes per game.
The emergence of Manzano in the preseason had prematurely answered the question of who could be the number two guy for Adamson, factoring how he meshes well with the skill set of Lastimosa. Raising the expectation that this squad is a serious candidate to snag a spot in the Final Four.
But us UAAP fans understand it by now, the theme for Season 85 has been unpredictability. Too bad Adamson was the first one to have served that memo.
An upset came at the hands of the Soaring Falcons in their first game against UST. Lastimosa struggled mightily the whole game, and ample support was nowhere to be found. Not even Manzano, who was not able to find his stride in only 12 minutes of game time.
Unfortunately, it was only Exhibit A of what wound up to be a tough start for Manzano this season. Fouls plagued the 19-year-old player as he averaged 3.1 fouls per game in the first round, which is among the top three in the league, per Stats by Ryan.
It became detrimental for Adamson that also had a hard time generating perimeter scoring (24.6% in 3s in the first round) with arguably their second best guy riding the bench for the majority of the game (17.3 minutes per game).
So reaching this point of the piece might make you think why are we even talking about Cedrick Manzano. Because when he’s out there on the floor, the guy has been nothing short of splendid.
According to Stats by Ryan, Manzano had one of the best Net On/Off in the whole UAAP with a whopping +18.6 for the Soaring Falcons, which ranks fourth best. Well, in layman’s terms, it’s just telling us that Adamson is dominating the game whenever they have him on the court.
Now let’s look at the tape (sprinkled with more numbers still) and see how Manzano impacts Adamson’s performance.
First, we peep at Manzano’s activity on the defensive side. His blocks per game might be lower compared to last season (1.2 to 0.9), but the way Manzano alter shots at the rim remains the same which makes him an effective help defender. If only he could cut the fouling, like Manzano’s last game versus UST, we might see him this more frequently in the games to come.
Another aspect as to why Manzano is elite on that end is his solid post defense. Coming into this season in better shape, he was able to maintain his strength to bang while becoming lean in order to deal with the quicker ones at the post.
Not the biggest of sample sizes yet, but Manzano defending the pick-and-roll is still a work in progress at the moment. Laterals might still be better in terms of guarding in the perimeter, but him developing into a switch big might be in the works for the years to come.
On offense, Manzano has understood and accepted his role. Checking his shot chart, he exclusively takes shots around the shaded area and the low block. More reps of him doing work inside the paint can be a low hanging fruit Adamson that can go to. Best believe, he’s one heck of a big man prospect if he gets the opportunity to do stuff.
Also worth mentioning is his ability to crash the offensive boards, being the second best in that category in the first round (3.86 per game). Only means that you have the luxury of setting too many plays for Manzano because of his ability to convert off of misses.
Another source offensively of Manzano are the dribble penetrations of the guards of Adamson. When defenses are pulled by those penetrations, he knows where to camp and feed off those dump passes for easy buckets.
For the last three games, Manzano has picked the cudgels in scoring, upping his points per game to 14 along with 7.3 rebounds on an efficient 65.1 TS%. This uptick was definitely felt in their recent win against UST, where Manzano was needed the most.
A game that Adamson played sans superstar Jerom Lastimosa and Vince Magbuhos and down by as much as 19 points, Manzano led Adamson to a stellar comeback to win the game with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Nothing more important than his converted and-1 late in the game to push Adamson ahead. Here’s a neat breakdown of that play from Call to Arms regular Ryan Alba:
As of this writing, the Adamson Soaring Falcons sit at fourth sporting a record of 4-5. This by no means is a safe preposition, with an eternity of basketball to be played after the Gilas break.
Uncertainty also looms for Adamson with the availability of the aforementioned injured players (especially Lastimosa) still hanging in the balance as they head towards the stretch run. But for the meantime, one thing is definite, they have Cedrick Manzano to depend on to be the man for the Soaring Falcons.