SLAM PH UAAP Awards (Part 2)

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 Josh with his set of awards:

(READ: SLAM PH UAAP Awards Part 1)

Most Valuable Player: Kobe Paras, UP

17.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.33 BPG 

For the sake of this conversation, the MVP award here pertains to the player who is literally the cause for celebration for his team, the one who if you take him out of the equation, the team will immediately take a drop from where they are in the standings. 

Enter Kobe Paras. 

There’s no doubting the scoring prowess by this kid at this point. Drives, pull-ups, dunks, and long ass-threes are just about everything he did to propel UP to the second seed, their best finish in the Final Four era. 

Countless of times this year he bailed out the Fighting Maroons with big plays. Whether down double digits or up by two in a close game, he found a way to close out for this team. All this despite nursing a shoulder injury all throughout out the year. 

After all the things that were said in the past, Paras redeemed himself in this current 12-game run with the Maroons. He didn’t play perfect. He could have played better. But he gave his all for this squad, every single time.

Defensive Player of the Year: Chabi Chabi Yo, UST

16.9 PPG, 14.7 RPG, 0.9 BPG

Everyone knows Angelo Kouame dominated the league with his blocks this year. But not many pay attention to the other foreign student-athlete that put his name out there with his relentless play and energy.

Chabi Chabi Yo isn’t the tallest or longest or the fiercest – if you consider all the foreigners play you’ve seen in the UAAP. But what does make him stand out is his motor. This guy is just built differently. It’s like he never gets tired. And it’s never more evident than on the defensive end.

Don’t get it wrong, the guy can block shots. It’s not as emphatic or dominant like Kouame’s, but he makes up for it in other things. 

He has great hands, which he uses well to poke the ball away or get in the way of errant passes. He knows how to stay on his man without fouling, which is really an asset for a foreign player in the UAAP.

It’s his motor that’s most impressive. He just never stops hounding the other team. Whether it’s his man or another coming off a switch, Chabi Yo has quick feet, and like all his other UST teammates, can leap like a tiger for those loose balls and defensive boards. 

Need proof? In 14 elimination games played he committed just a total of 17 fouls, or 1.21 fouls per game. When was the last time you saw a foreign student-athlete patrolling the paint without being whistled as much? That’s why he deserves to be seen as a defensive beast this season.

Rookie of the Year: Mark Nonoy, UST

10.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.3 APG

Season 82’s rookie class may not be one of the strongest in recent memory, but it did provide legitimate talent that could take over in the future. AP Manlapaz, Royce Alforque, and Sherwin Concepcion are just some that made names for themselves. 

But no rookie’s light may have shone brighter than Mark Nonoy.

Coming straight from their own juniors program, UST’s speedster almost ran past each team with his insane speed, streaky shooting, and spectacular finishes at the rim.

It didn’t take him long to come out of his shell when he dominated UP in just his second game in the seniors. Showing flashes of Jayson Castro’s evasive speed, Nonoy outran the Maroons almost by himself, providing that finishing kick that helped them deal them a 16-point win. That win made people quickly reconsider UST’s place in collegiate basketball. 

He had some off-games towards the end of Round 1, which is expected for a rookie. But he immediately bounced back in Round 2. He was one of the key reasons why UST won four straight games propelling them to a return to the postseason. That run included a hell of a finishing kick to give his team that much needed win in their 14th game against Adamson.

Nonoy still has four more years to showcased how much his speed can kill in the UAAP.

Coach of the Year: Aldin Ayo, UST

He weaved his magic with Letran. Did the same with La Salle. Now, he’s looking like he’s about to do it again with UST.

Aldin Ayo may be one of the youngest coaches in all of Philippine basketball, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he may be one of the best mentors today for players making their way through their developmental stage in college 

His resumè speaks for itself. Not every coach can lead a team to an immediate title in his rookie year. But Aldin did it twice in two of the country’s premier college leagues. 

Unlike his first two stints though, Ayo began from scratch with the Growling Tigers. It may have taken him over a year to see it come to fruition, but his program in España is slowly molding into a team that’s reminiscent of his two championship seasons.

So far this year, he is the only coach that came close to beating Ateneo, succumbing to a one-point loss in their First Round meeting. That earned him great praise form Tab Baldwin, as the American mentor stated after that game: “I have so much respect for Aldin and the way he does his job and you know he’s a blessing for Philippine basketball and the UAAP.”

Ayo knows how to motivate all of his players well, from the team captain all they to end-of-bench guys. They’re ready to come in at any time to do their job. That was evident in UST’s elimination round.

For them to beat every team except Ateneo – and this includes the talent-laden UP Maroons four times – shows he’s already done his job to lead his team to the top of the mountain alongside the Blue Eagles.

Sixth Man of the Year: SJ Belangel, Ateneo

6.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.9 APG

SJ Belangel’s numbers they don’t really stand out at first glance. But taking a deeper look into the numbers will prove why he deserves this recognition.

Belangel’s field goal percentage for the full 14 games he played is 40%. Of the 72 total field goals he attempted 42 of those were from the three-point line. Of which he made 17 of them, good for 40.48 %. He also made all but three of his 18 attempts at the line, good for 83.33%. 

Apart from that, his plus-minus rating is a staggering +106. He was the only guy to reach a plus-rating of triple digits outside of Ateneo’s consistent starting five of Ravena, Kouame, Navarro, Nieto, and Wong.

Still not impressed yet? 

He logged in a total of 166 minutes of play in all the games he checked into. His average playing time for each match is 12 minutes. So in just a quarter of play each game, this guy has managed to have a big effect on this blue and white squad – something that’s definitely not lost on Coach Tab Baldwin’s mind.

Belangel brings quality numbers in such quantified minutes. This sophomore set himself up for big things next year with his performance from off the bench this season.

Slam Dunk Champion – Jaime Malonzo, La Salle

He announced his arrival by dunking emphatically on Thirdy Ravena. Think about that for a second. 

This one-and-done forward put on a show in his lone season in the UAAP with his leaping ability and flashy dunks. Even though he played in just 14 games, he made sure to make a mark with one of his trade mark slams in just about each one of them.

Here are some of his highlights.

A fastbreak alley-oop from Aljun Melecio over the NU Bulldogs. A double-pump poster of Wendell Comboy against FEU. And in their crucial Round 2 game versus UST, he slammed home three dunks in that game: a poster of CJ Cansino coming off another Melecio pass, a breakaway 180-degree slam after stealing the ball from Chabi Yo, and finally, a putback slam on Brent Paraiso after a crucial Caracut miss. 

Dubbed the ‘Walking Highlight’ by his teammates, he sure as hell didn’t fail to amaze in his one and only season.

Mr. All Around: Ljay Gonzales , FEU

10.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4.0 APG

FEU has always been home to blue-collar guys who know how to do their job game in, game out. Players who know how and what to put in consistently to bring them success. This year, nobody did that better than sophomore guard LJay Gonzales.

With the Tamaraws losing six seniors to graduation from their Season 81 squad, Gonzales was thrust into the staring lineup as he started all 14 elimination round games. With the exception of probably his outside shooting, he did well consistently across almost all statistical categories, helping them nab the third seed no one saw them claiming in before the season started.

He averaged almost 11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal, with a plus-minus of +39 while shooting close to 40% from the field when he was on the floor for FEU. 

With his size, he’s expected to be as fast as many of the UAAP guards. But what people forget to commend about him is his feel for the game, which helped him get rebounds others with his size don’t normally do. That also allowed him to set up his teammates in the spots they like best. 

Gonzales can affect the game in multiple ways, through his passing, rebounding, defense and scoring. He just did what he had to do to help his team win.

Game of the Year: UP vs. UST Round 2

After their First Round loss to UST, this was UP’s perfect moment to get payback.

Issues surrounded the Tigers prior to the game as poaching rumors befuddled the España team. But it sure as hell did not look like the players were affected during warm-ups. Shot after shot, long after long bomb went in as each UST player jacked one up. 

UP on the other hand, was hungry for that second seed. With a 1-1 start to Round 2, they wanted this game bad. They clearly did not want a repeat of the beating they received in the previous round.

It was tit-for-tat all throughout the game. Despite UST hitting just about every shot from the arc, UP responded with their own baskets care of their superstars. With every UST run, UP valiantly fought back with one of their own.

Kobe Paras almost spurred what may have been UP’s biggest win against their final four opponents. When everyone thought UP had the game, up four with over a minute remaining, UST uncorked one of the wildest turnarounds as they went on a 10-0 spurt to end the game, winning by 6. Renzo Subido and Brent Paraiso spoiled the Maroons’ supposed party on a Wednesday afternoon with clutch three-point shooting – proving just how deadly this Tigers squad is when they connect from deep.

Even the crowds were in a playoff mood that made the atmosphere even better. The UP faithful was its classic self, cheering and jeering for the full 40 minutes. But the UST side of the arena – though outnumbered – never wavered. With every three, stop, or steal, they roared loudly like their Growling Tigers.