UAAP 82: Lebron Lopez takes flight after taking talents to Ateneo

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jan 26, 2020 06:55 PM
UAAP 82: Lebron takes flight after taking talents to Ateneo
(Photo courtesy of UAAP)

Francis Lopez decided to leave behind greener pastures.

And interestingly enough, that turned out to be the right decision.

Not even a year after transferring from La Salle Green Hills to Ateneo de Manila High School, Lopez is already making a name for himself as one of the most promising prospects in the Philippines.

Putting up per game counts of 16.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks, all while lengthening his highlight reel, the 6-foot-4 big-bodied forward is the undisputed breakout star of the UAAP 82 Boys Basketball Tournament.

Along with that, he is proving to be only worthy of being "Lebron" - a nickname he himself coined, apparently. "I just thought about it kasi mga dunks ko during practice, look like LeBron's," he shared.

He then continued, "He's my favorite player, for sure."

All of this, after a lost year as a Junior Blazer where he averaged 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in 3.4 minutes. More than that, he only saw action in 10 of their 22 games in all.

Not long after that season, Lopez chose to move forward. "That summer, Coach Ford [Arao] recruited me. He told me na sayang na bench lang ako and kung dito sa Ateneo, we're gonna use you," he said.

He then continued, "Sabi rin niya, maganda future mo rito not only in basketball, but academics din."

As it turns out, all he needed to turn it on was a little faith.

And Ateneo head coach Reggie Varilla and Coach Ford were nothing but happy to give not just a little, but their full faith.

"Si Coach Reggie and Coach Ford, kinausap ako nung una pa lang na kahit 'di ako masyado nagamit sa GH, they believe in me," he said. "Dito, sa practice pa lang, sinasabi nilang go hard na dapat kasi magiging ganun din sa game."

In turn, the Filipino-Angolan has done nothing but return their trust - joining forces with fellow transferee Josh Lazaro and floor leader Forthsky Padrigao to make sure the Blue Eaglets continued their contention even without 7-foot-2, 17-year-old Kai Sotto.

And without a doubt, Lopez has come far from his days suiting up for Augustinian Abbey School in Las Pinas and from his days sitting at the end of the LSGH bench.

"Honestly, I was really down that time kasi during practice, I was giving everything I got, pero pagdating sa game, wala talaga," he said.

He then continued, "Very thankful ako sa nangyari ngayon. Sa Ateneo, hindi lang naman basketball habol ko rito, but also academics because I'm also thinking about my future."

At the same time, while he's already making waves, the 16-year-old is also well aware that he still has a long way to go. As he put it, "I really wanna show everything I got. I hope to keep doing that."

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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