Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines were the favorites to go all the way in the recently concluded UAAP 81 3x3 Tournament.
Only, University of Sto. Tomas had other plans, taking down the Fighting Maroons and then taking its place opposite the Blue Eagles in the Finals last Sunday.
Ultimately, the Growling Tigers fell to the UAAP Men’s five-on-five and 3x3 champions.
But not before they gave their all and got their opponents to sing their praises.
In particular, Rhenz Abando, a transferee forward from Philippine College of Science and Technology in Pangasinan, opened eyes.
Abando looks like the prototype Growling Tiger, long-limbed, athletic, and versatile.
He put all of those to good use in their semifinals matchup with UP, as he blocked Ricci Rivero’s layup attempt from behind to seal the win for his side.
In the end, even Thirdy Ravena, who was just coming off his first tour of duty with Gilas Pilipinas, was left impressed. “Of course, because of 3x3, nakita natin yung individual showcase na mapapakita sa court. Ngayon, nakilala ko si Abando and he’s incredibly athletic and a gifted player,” he said.
He then continued, “He’s going to be a threat to the whole league in the coming years.”
Just four days later, the two met once more, this time in five-on-five competition in the 2019 PBA D-League.
There, Abando only continued taking it to Ravena, and the rest of Ateneo, scoring 21 points to spearhead the UST ambush that eventually ended as a 112-98 decision.
Without a doubt, the 6-foot-2 wing was playing inspired as he faced off with one of his idols. “Na-iinspire talaga akong kaharap siya kasi Ravena yan. Idol ko rin yan nung nasa probinsya pa ako,” he said.
He then continued, referring to Kiefer Ravena, “Lalo kong idol yung kuya niya.”
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