Going for Great: Eight UAAP Players Primed for Breakouts

 

The UAAP Season 80 is young but there have been lots of flashes of greatness from the current crop of basketball stars in the league, which can be watched on ABS-CBN S+A and S+A HD on TV or via livestreaming at sports.abs-cbn.com. Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, UAAP fans have been catching players making a jump to superstar level as they strive to bring glory to their school.

So far, eight players have been playing at a high level for their schools as they go for great this season. They were probably inspired by the presence of numerous greats who paraded during opening day and said to themselves, “we’ll be UAAP legends someday.”

 

Thirdy Ravena, Ateneo De Manila University

The younger Ravena is experiencing a major leap in his UAAP career from averaging 9.9 points a game with 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in Season 79. This year, the numbers are up, especially on the scoring end, as he is putting up 18 points a game with nine caroms for good measure to lead Ateneo in scoring in three games – all wins – into the season. To make matters even harder for opposing teams, Thirdy’s elite athleticism has been in full display as he seems to have harnessed his physical gifts better compared to last year’s version.

 

Aljun Melecio, De La Salle University

Season 79’s Rookie of the Year is reaping the benefits of an offense designed by DLSU head coach Aldin Ayo that has already proven to make scoring machines out of its backcourt players. With Ben Mbala busy playing for Cameroon in the 2017 Afrobasket, Melecio’s shackles came undone early in this season, leading to an average of 24.5 points, four rebounds, five assists, and 2.5 steals in two games. Even as Mbala returns, Melecio will figure to be a constant scoring option for Ayo, who employs an offense that allows the diminutive guard to burn the nets when he gets hot.

 

Jordan Bartlett, National University

The Bulldogs have a new coach, a new super athletic foreign student-athlete to replace Alfred Aroga, and a new go-to guard in Jordan Bartlett. Bartlett made up from a quiet debut when he led NU in a gallant stand against defending champs DLSU last Saturday (September 16) by pouring in 23 points in a losing effort. NU’s new head coach, Jamike Jarin, may have found the perfect complement to senior Jjay Alejandro in the back court in Bartlett, who is averaging a decent 14 points a game, 3.5 rebounds, and two assists. Who knows, teams may soon be facing down a three-headed monster in NU, with Bartlett sharing the offensive load with Alejandro and Issa Gaye.

 

Juan Gomez de Liano, University of the Philippines

We all expect Paul Desiderio to be UP’s main man this season but people are also excited to see the younger Gomez de Liano prove he is the future face of the Fighting Maroons. The UAAP Season 79 Juniors MVP has started making his case as the top newcomer in the league with his astounding play that does not scream “rookie” all over him. With terrific speed, athleticism, IQ, and height for someone who should be adjusting to the seniors division, the young buck has been second in scoring in UP with 10 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. One can only imagine the damage the younger Gomez de Liano can do when he has fully adjusted to the college level.

 

Ron Dennison, Far Eastern University

The host’s captain made a living on the defensive end from the start of his career until Season 79. In Season 80, Dennison has been the league’s leading Most Improved Player candidate as he is currently putting up a mighty impressive 15 points per game spiked with 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists after averaging a paltry 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in Season 79. Aiding Dennison’s transformation into FEU’s main offensive weapon is his ability to find seams in the defense to exploit and spot open teammates while on the fly. Make no mistake, Dennison is still one of the UAAP’s meanest lockdown defenders and continues to mark opposing teams’ best players.

 

Sean Manganti, Adamson Falcons

While Robbie Manalang and Kurt Lojera provide the fireworks for the very young Adamson Falcons squad, Sean Manganti’s development into a versatile forward makes them a future contender. While last season’s leading scorer Jerrick Ahanmisi has been silent and big man Papi Sarr still nursing a groin injury, Manganti has stepped up to the plate to provide his share with averages of 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Playing multiple positions on offense and defense, Manganiti simply makes Adamson more dangerous.

 

Marvin Lee, University of Santo Tomas

The program of UST is in a reboot right now but thanks to Marvin Lee and transferee Steve Akomo, the Tigers can’t be counted out for a shot at the Final Four. Lee has been exceptional for Boy Sablan’s supposedly offensively-challenged Tigers this season. The junior guard has been a spitfire churning out 17 points a game with 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 steals an outing while waxing hot from downtown with a 41.7% clip. However, aside from him and Akomo, UST needs to find another consistent option to contend for the title.

 

Clark Derige, University of the East

University of the East continues to claw its way back to the top of the UAAP after the Paul Lee era of the Recto-based squad. The light at the end of the tunnel looks to be fourth year player Clark Derige who has already improved form his 4.5 points a game average last season, after a strong sophomore year. This year, Derige has been putting in 16 points and 4.3 rebounds to the Red Warriors, which were perennial Final Four contenders during the days of James Yap, Paul Artadi, Paul Lee, and Mark Borboran.

 

Catch them and their fellow student-athletes as they #GoForGreat this UAAP Season 80 every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, starting at 2pm on S+A and S+A HD. Be inspired by their stories on and off the court on “Upfront at the UAAP,” which airs every Satruday and Sunday at 1:30pm.  For more news, features, and live streaming, visit sports.abs-cbn.com or follow @ABSCBNSports on Twitter and Facebook. To look back on the greatest rivalries and greatest moments in the league, logon to www.uaap80.com.

 

Disclaimer: All stats are accurate until September 17, 2017.

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