SLAM PH UAAP Awards (Part 1)

Before the UAAP awards are officially handed out on Game 2, our UAAP coverage team pick their best performers of Season 82. They hand out the usual awards and some fun ones as well. Here’s Gio with his set of awards:

(READ: SLAM PH UAAP Awards Part 2)

Most Valuable Player: Chabi Chabi Yo, UST

16.9 PPG, 14.7 RPG, 1.3 APG

Chabi Chabi Yo has been the best two-way player in the UAAP this season.

His numbers are every fantasy player’s dream. Chabi Yo produced the second-most points in the season at 240 (six points shy from Rey Suerte’s league-leading numbers), averaging 16.93 points in 14 outings with the Growling Tigers. He did so in an efficient manner, ranking second in FG% (51.65) and seventh in FT% (70%). Chabi Yo hauled in the most rebounds per game, gobbling up 14.71 boards per outing to go along with nearly one block a game.

At 6’6″, he stands relatively shorter compared to other Foreign Student Athletes in his class. But what Chabi Yo lacks in size is made up for by the amount of heart and athleticism this guy has on every play. On both offense and defense, he is a talented workhorse who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Because of his stellar performance this season, Chabi Yo has quickly become one of the main centerpieces of Aldin Ayo’s playbook. As a big man, his ability to finish gracefully on the break and strength to power through defenders on the low post is a cheat code that UST has gladly utilized. His presence on the floor draws enough attention from the opponents’ defense to open up the shooters UST loves to spread the floor with. And if opposing teams choose to lock down on the outside, he has the bunnies to catch lobs on inbounds and throw it down in the paint — undoubtedly a classic Ayo play that everyone is used to watching over the years.

Although Chabi Yo has made his name as a big man this season, Coach Ayo had previously expressed that he hopes to see his center play the forward spot in the coming seasons. It would be equally exciting yet frightening to see what else the big man has in his bag.

Defensive Player of the Year: Ange Kouame, Ateneo

12.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.7 BPG

Not yet convinced that Ange Kouame deserves to be this year’s Defensive Player of the Year? Here’s some empirical data to make his case.

Swatting away a staggering 54 shots in the elimination round, Kouame has single-handedly registered more blocks than what five UAAP teams have tallied in the entire season (NU, UST, FEU, UE, DLSU). Kouame produces an extraordinary 3.86 blocks per outing while his length and agility on the floor have altered numerous shots in the paint as well as tipped several lazy passes from the perimeter. Although he only ranks fifth in total rebounds, averaging 11.79 boards in less than 25 minutes of play, it is nevertheless an impressive feat considering that Chabi Yo, Diakhite, Douanga, Baltazar all play at an average of at least 30 minutes or more per outing.

Kouame is simply a deterrent. His seven-foot frame is an offensive player’s worst nightmare. However, what makes his presence on the court even more frightening is that the second-year Blue Eagle fits seamlessly with Ateneo’s defensive playbook. There is no doubt that a significant reason as to why the Blue Eagles leads the league in points allowed (59.5 ppg) can be attributed to Kouame’s outstanding play this season.

The fact that the Blue Eagles have the luxury of having Kouame to protect the paint, and guard the perimeter when needed makes him an invaluable asset for any team. Having eligibility for three more years for Ateneo, there is a strong possibility that the league has yet to see the best that Kouame has to offer.

Rookie of the Year: Rhenz Abando, UST

12.23 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 APG

Rhenz Abando’s silent, yet deadly demeanor on the floor is wildly offset by the amount of hype that he has lived up to in Season 82. Together with his “Ang Probinsayno” backcourt tandem, Mark Nonoy, the two daredevil guards have formed one of the most entertaining one-two punches throughout the elimination rounds.

Abando isn’t just your typical human highlight reel. Along with his season averages, Abando also netted the highest +/- rating in is team at +85 when he was on the floor.

Given UST’s current setup, Coach Aldin Ayo hit the jackpot in recruiting Abando. The La Union native possesses the physical tools that allow him to run, jump, and defend, in Ayo’s patented highly-physical system. But beyond his athletic gifts, UST’s X-factor is his capable stroke from the outside. In fact, he tied established sharpshooters Ino Comboy and Jerrick Ahanmisi for the most made shots from distance this season at 32.

Abando’s successful rookie campaign only points to the fact that he still has tremendous upside and lots of room to grow. Having dazzled the league as both an inside and an outside threat in his first season, who knows what the young gun can pull from his bag of tricks next? Under Ayo’s wing, it is with great certainty that the relatively young mentor can unlock his rookie’s true potential in the coming years.

Coach of the Year: Tab Baldwin

When it comes to this year’s Coach of the Year, there is no doubt that Coach Tab Baldwin deserves to receive the nod.

While both Aldin Ayo and Olsen Racela have had great success with their respective teams, Baldwin is simply on another level compared to the other two tacticians. Behind Ateneo’s perfect, 14-0 record, is arguably one of the greatest basketball masterminds that the Philippines has ever seen. Whether it’s being unpredictable on the floor, or simply just having witnessed thousands of basketball scenarios in his 40 years of coaching, it seems that Baldwin knows exactly what to do in any given situation.

Now in his fourth year with Ateneo, it appears that Baldwin’s resilient coaching philosophy has paid dividends, evidenced by the way the Blue Eagles have played all season long. The Blue Eagles have remained focused on getting the job done consistently on a play-by-play basis — a true testament to the culture of excellence instilled by Baldwin and his staff. It only takes the Blue Eagles a halftime break, or even a mere timeout to play like they’re the best damn team in the country.

Baldwin’s ability to effectively galvanize his team to perform brilliantly, especially in the most crucial situations, is truly a gift. He doesn’t just demand this level of play from his main rotation. Baldwin expects excellence to be a norm from the first man up until the sixteenth. Hence, the team’s motto all year long: Next man up.

Sixth Man: Juan Gomez De Liaño, UP

7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG

Despite flying under the radar, for the most part this season, Juan Gomez De Liano has exemplified what it means to be a bonafide team player, a true Sixth Man. With his talents alone, he could’ve made it to the starting lineup of any other UAAP team. However, the former Season 81 Mythical Five selection accepted his role on the team as one of the first men off the bench. It takes a huge sacrifice for a player of his caliber to be relegated into the second unit — and this is exactly why he deserves the nod for this very award.

On the court, Juan plays the imperative role of being both a floor general and a spark plug. As he steps on the floor, the younger Gomez De Liaño plays with a fiery passion which provides the much needed energy for the Fighting Maroons. UP has definitely enjoyed the services of having two legitimate starting point guards in their team: Gomez De Liaño, and Jun Manzo. This places them in an advantageous position knowing that the keys to their offense are always in capable hands for 40 minutes in the game.

As the saying goes, “stars shine brighter in the dark”, but Gomez De Liaño has proven that he will still shine no matter how many other stars are put around him. Whenever he’s on the floor, it’s noticeable that his immediate outlook is to make everybody else on his team look better. His steady handle allows him to push the pace on the fastbreak while being instinctive enough to make the right play. But that’s not to say that he can’t light it up anymore. Everyone knows he could easily mess around and drop a 20-bomb on any given day, one step back three at a time.

Best Glue Guy: Will Navarro, Ateneo

7.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.2 APG

Ever since he received high praise from Coach Tab Baldwin, following his +30 rating against FEU in the first round, Will Navarro has been quite the talk of the town when it comes to being the poster boy for efficiency.

On his own, Navarro quietly served as Ateneo’s third-leading scorer, while shooting at a league-leading 57.63% from the perimeter. Looking at those stats on paper, it’s almost quite indicative of a fairly average player in the UAAP. However, it takes a closer observation to capture the beauty of Navarro’s game.

The former San Beda recruit won’t astound you with highlight plays, or flashy passes, but what makes him a spectacle to watch is that he always knows how to make the right play consistently. Whether it’d be by making the extra pass, securing the loose ball, or even as simple as setting a sturdy screen for his teammates, the accumulation of all of the little things he does on the court is reflected in his +184 plus-minus rating this season.

In a league dominated by a popular adaptation of a modern-day, Run N’ Gun offense, Navarro’s old-school approach to the game is a breath of fresh air for the league. One can never go wrong by sticking to the fundamentals. Just ask multi-time champion, Tim Duncan.

Clutch Killer: Renzo Subido, UST

8.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.5 APG

Renzo Subido has aged like fine wine since he entered the league way back in 2014. After sitting out Season 80 to join the PBA D-League, Subido reintroduced himself last year, tallying 15.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 1.8 APG — a significant leap from his Season 79 averages of 6.7 PPG, 1.4 RPG, and 1.6 APG.

However, with the influx of talent UST enjoyed this year, it was quite expected that his numbers would dip across several categories. Nevertheless, Subido has grown into his newfound role this year, serving as both a mentor to his relatively youthful squad and a closer during gut-check situations.

The caveat of UST’s potent, fast-paced offense is that it suffers greatly when the game slows down, especially during close-game scenarios. But luckily, the senior has had a penchant for making the biggest shots in the game throughout the whole season. Subido’s ability to create space and launch the ball in a blink of an eye is what makes his jump shot straight-up lethal — kinda reminiscent of an NBA player with a broken hand right now, (Right Golden State fans?).

Who could forget the cold-blooded three he hit in between the eyes of Javi Gomez De Liaño to seal the game against UP in the second round? Or the pair of free throws that Subido sank against Adamson to clinch their first playoff spot since Season 77? Subido did his magic again during the stepladder match against FEU when he drilled a nasty stepback trey to give his team the needed boost to eliminate the Tamaraws. The most recent shot was his biggest of the season: the go-ahead triple on Bright Akhuetie that propelled the Tigers from fourth to the Finals.

Subido is a killer. His guts are bigger than his 5’8″ frame.