Breakout Players in Season 78
Paolo Mariano on Sep 10, 2015 10:11 AM
Raymar Jose (#6) of the FEU Tamaraws showed what he is capable of doing in their win over the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Aside from seeing seniors cry in their final UAAP game, it's also sure to see erstwhile unnoticed players blossom into virtual go-to-guys every season. It's part of the beauty of the league. It's nice to witness players reach their potential and knock on the doors of the league's elite cast. Some even break through it.
Last season, guys like Mac Belo, Von Pessumal, Louie Vigil, Pong Galanza, and Don Trollano transitioned from being under the radar in previous campaigns to being familiar names among UAAP fans.
This Season 78, a new crop of players are expected to make the leap.
Dawn Ochea -Â Adamson University
Last season: 4.2 PPG, 36.7 FG%, 4.1 RPG
With a young and an unproven roster, the 19-year-old Ochea has been thrown into the leadership role along with sophomores Ivan Villanueva and Joseph Nalos. He's another banger who has improved with his rising confidence. He has a rock-solid upper body and is a sneaky offensive player. He may not have a vast array of post moves, but he's agile and quick compared to other big men.
He is a former CESAFI Juniors MVP so he definitely has game. At this stage of his career, he's already given huge responsibilities. But like most Cebuanos, his work ethic will propel him to greater heights. If he can be more creative in putting up points, he’ll be the Soaring Falcons’ first option in the post with fellow pivot man Gwall Soulemane being more of a defensive presence.
Ponso Gotladera -Â Ateneo de Manila University
Last season: 5.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG
After languishing in the bench for two seasons with De La Salle University, the 6-foot-5 Gotladera has found a regular rotation spot with the Blue Eagles. He has improved his footwork, showing more poise and patience underneath the basket. More importantly, he provides the spunk and toughness the clean-cut boys from Katipunan need. He's a bruiser on both ends. It’s as if he relishes physical play.
The former San Beda Red Cub, however, needs to add a jumper from within 12 feet to make him more of an offensive weapon. But if you give him time to operate in the post, he can do damage as he’s adroit in finishing with either hand. He had a good showing in last year's Final Four so it’s difficult to imagine him rot on the bench once again.
Prince Rivero -Â De La Salle University
Last season: 4.6 PPG, 58.1 FG%, 4.2 RPG
With Rivero’s stint with the Gilas Cadets in the off-season, this is a no-brainer. He was the youngest member of the team at 19 years old and had ample experience fine-tuning his game against tough competition in the Southeast Asian Games. He was already impressive as a newcomer last season so there’s nowhere to go but up for the do-it-all 6-foot-3 forward.
The former NCAA Juniors MVP with La Salle Greenhills moves well without the ball and has no qualms doing the intangibles. He has a natural knack for the game but he needs to be more consistent on his midrange jumper. With the Green Archers’ lean frontline, he’s projected to contribute right away. He has the most upside among the league's youngsters and it's scary for opponents to think that he's only a sophomore.
Raymar Jose -Â Far Eastern University
Season 77: 4.3 PPG, 61.8 FG%, 2.0 RPG
Here’s another big man who’s expected to come out of his shell. He has always been a serviceable big man since his high school days with Arellano University. He’ll inherit the playing time vacated by Anthony Hargrove and Carl Cruz. He finishes well around the basket and has soft hands for a big man. Expect him to be one of the league leaders in terms of field goal percentage this year.
At 6-foot-5, he’s a solid rim protector. But with his height, he should be a better rebounder, especially now that he has more burn time. He has sound fundamentals on offense though and has the most experience among the Tamaraws’ big guys. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he'll be an integral piece to FEU’s mission to avenge last season's finals setback.
Kyle Neypes -Â National University
Last season: 2.1 PPG, 31.6 FG%, 2.4 RPG
At first glance, Neypes is what coaches look for in a big guy: long, fit, and athletic. But in his four years in the league, his presence has been hardly felt, considering he’s a former UAAP Juniors Mythical Five member with the University of Santo Tomas. His lack of focus usually results to silly fouls and unnecessary confrontations with opponents. Now in his swan song, the Bulldogs hope that he can finally get his act together since he’s expected to fill the void left by Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin.
If he puts his mind into it, he can be another version of Rosario with his leaping ability, dexterity, and decent outside shot. His tenacity will also help the defending champions, especially on the defensive end. An 8-and-6 average wouldn't be disappointing for the 23-year-old.
Renz Palma -Â University of the East
Last season: 2.9 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 1.5 RPG
Here’s one guy who could be one of the more exciting players in the league with his pogo stick hops and daredevil forays to the hoop. It’s thrilling to watch Palma go coast-to-coast and finish a strong lay-up. Unfortunately, it’s also his problem at times. He gets too excited when an opportunity shows itself. But it’s part of the learning curve for the second year guard from Aurora.
Aside from his abilities in the open court, he’s a decent defensive player with his quickness and strong physique. He can also hit the occasional three-pointer. His high motor will benefit him in the fast-paced tempo of the UAAP. He’s much like Ronald Tubid during his early years with the Red Warriors. With head coach Derrick Pumaren’s freewheeling system, he has the chance to produce and flourish.
Paul Desiderio -Â University of the Philippines
Last season: DNP
Back from a one-year absence is the former CESAFI Juniors MVP. His year-long stint with the Batang Gilas will definitely bode him well in his return. He looked panicky and anxious during his rookie year with the Fighting Maroons in Season 76. Now, he has shown more composure and confidence. His heft and upper body strength at the wing position are advantages.
But like most young players, his shot selection and decision-making are still suspect. He needs to learn to lessen his erratic plays. His defense is a good place to start to make it easier for him on the other end. He can mix it up in terms of physicality with his experience playing bigger guys in the international stage. With Desiderio back in the fold, UP fans can expect a workhorse every game.
Kent Lao -Â University of Santo Tomas
Last season: 3.5 PPG, 41.5 FG%, 2.0 RPG
The 6-foot-4 Lao had several good games last year and he should carry that momentum this Season 78. With the graduation of Aljon Mariano and Kim Lo, the former RP Youth Team member will have to carry a heavier load. He used to get most of his points from second chance opportunities and broken plays but this time around, he’s expected to be more of an offensive threat. A good thing for him is that he can drain from deep.
But more importantly, he needs to crash the boards, especially with the Growling Tigers’ meager frontline. He’ll also have to lead the second unit since most of their second stringers are still untested. Head coach Bong Dela Cruz has high hopes for the St. Stephen High School product. It’s time for him to man up.