WHAT IF...Tony Koyfman played for the Blue Eagles in UAAP Season 80 Finals?
Mark Escarlote on May 20, 2020 07:17 PM
(Photo: Josh Albelda)
In UAAP Season 79, Ateneo de Manila University completed an amazing sweep of the men’s tournament.
The Blue Eagles stamped their class on the competition thanks to the powerful tandem of Marck Espejo and Tony Koyfman and the then graduating pair of Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva as they went unbeaten in 16 games, including a pair of thrilling five-setters in the championship series against National University.
However, the following season proved to be huge challenge for Ateneo not just because of the departure of Intal and Villanueva but also with the absence of Koyfman.
The Russian-American skipped Season 80 because of health issues.
With the 6-foot-8 opposite hitter out, Espejo had to shoulder most of the scoring load for the Blue Eagles in his swan song.
Ateneo managed to advance to the Finals, but Espejo, who made history with his 55-point explosion in the semis against Far Eastern University, could only do so much against the onslaught of the Bulldogs as the Blue Eagles' three-year reign crumbled in two games.
Ateneo sorely missed the services of Koyfman in that series.
But what if Koyfman suited up for the Blue Eagles in that championship showdown?
Koyfman would have given Ateneo an added offensive threat, first of all.
The Blue Eagles that season still had one the one of the league’s best playmakers in Ish Polvorosa and with him controlling the offense and with more options at hand, it would surely have caused problems for the Bulldogs’ net defense.
Koyfman’s presence would have eased the scoring burden of Espejo, who was the obvious marked man in that series. In Season 79, Koyfman averaged 14.5 points per game in the Finals on his way to winning the Finals Most Valuable Player award.
With the tandem of Koyfman and Espejo at the wings, it would also free up other scoring threats like Ron Medalla, John Rivera, Gian Glorioso and middle Chu Njigha.
Koyfman would’ve also been an imposing defensive piece for Ateneo at the net.
With him around to help Glorioso and Njigha, the Blue Eagles would’ve given NU’s top spikers Bryan Bagunas and James Natividad a hard time penetrating their attacks or pose a challenge for Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura at the middle.
Another key contribution that he could've given the Blue Eagles was his championship experience.
The Bulldogs paraded an intact core. It would've had been a better matchup had the Katipunan-based squad had another veteran available.
Although, we cannot say if Ateneo can indeed complete the four-peat with Koyfman around against a very determined NU squad, we can agree that he was a missing piece to the Blue Eagles championship puzzle that season.
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