UAAP stars who took their talents overseas
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 25, 2020 01:49 PM
Alyssa Valdez suited up for Thai volleyball club 3BB Nakornnont back in 2017. (Photo courtesy of 3BB Nakornnont Facebook page)
The UAAP has without question been a premier breeding ground for some of the country’s best talents in numerous sports.
Majority of the UAAP’s products have successfully transitioned into professional careers here in the Philippines, while some have had - or will have - the opportunity to take their talents abroad.
Here are some of the most notable UAAP stars who have played or are set to play professional overseas.
Japeth Aguilar (Basketball)
Prior to becoming the PBA star that he is now, Japeth Aguilar was once a promising big man for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, playing two seasons before eventually transferring to Western Kentucky University, an NCAA Division I school.
After a stint in the PBA and with the National Team, Aguilar once again tried his luck stateside and was drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 NBA D-League draft, getting picked up by the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s D-League affiliate. Aguilar was signed as a practice player, but eventually returned to the PBA in 2013, where he has since become a 5-time champion, a Finals MVP, and a 7-time All Star.
Kai Sotto (Basketball)
From one towering former Atenean to another. While Kai Sotto never suited up for Katipunan’s senior squad, he was a gigantic star in the juniors, winning Rookie of the Year, leading the Blue Eaglets to a title in his sophomore season, and grabbing MVP honors the next year.
After his three seasons in Ateneo, Sotto announced that he was headed to the US to pursue an NBA dream.
In May of 2020, that NBA dream took a step closer to reality after it was announced that Sotto would be joining the NBA G-League’s Professional Pathway Program, following fellow top recruit and Fil-Am sensation Jalen Green. Sotto and Green will be teammates on the G-League Select squad, along with other top recruits in Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix.
Ray Parks (Basketball)
Ray-Ray Parks, the son of legendary PBA import Bobby Parks, was a two-time UAAP MVP with the National University Bulldogs.
After his stint in the UAAP, Parks pursued a career in the NBA and was eligible for the 2015 NBA Draft. He went undrafted but received an invitation to play for the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League squad. He played six games with the team, becoming the first Filipino to play in the NBA Summer League.
Later that year, Parks would be drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA D-League Draft, picked up by the Texas Legends and becoming the second Pinoy to be taken after Japeth Aguilar in 2012.
Parks played 4 games with the Legends, averaging 4.6 points in 13.3 minutes of play.
The following year, Parks would be drafted by the Westchester Knicks in the sixth round, but would be waived before opening night.
After his US stint, Parks would turn in an impressive career in the ABL as a member of Alab Pilipinas. Parks would go on to become a three-time local MVP and help lead Alab to an ABL title in the 2017-2018 season. In the 2018 PBA Draft, Parks was drafted second overall by Blackwater.
Following his ABL run, Parks would briefly join the MPBL before finally coming over to the PBA in 2019.
Kiefer Ravena (Basketball)
Kiefer Ravena will go down as one of the best to ever put on an Ateneo uniform.
In his five years with the Blue Eagles, Ravena was Rookie of the Year, a two-time UAAP champion, two-time UAAP MVP, 3-time Mythical Team member, and the author of many memorable moments for Katipunan diehards.
Following his collegiate run, Ravena decided to try his luck in the US and was signed by the Texas Legends as a developmental player in 2016.
Following his US stint, Ravena appeared briefly for ALAB Pilipinas in the ABL, playing just two games in the 2017 semifinals.
In 2017 PBA Draft, Ravena was drafted 2nd overall by NLEX.
Alyssa Valdez (Volleyball)
If Kiefer Ravena was Ateneo basketball’s phenom, Alyssa Valdez was the women’s volleyball counterpart.
In five years with the Lady Eagles, Valdez was a three-time MVP, two-time UAAP champion, 4-time Best Scorer, three-time Best Server, and so on.
After continuing to impress in the local volleyball club scene, Valdez was signed by Thai volleyball club 3BB Nakornnont, helping them finish fourth in the Thai League and a bronze medal finish in the Thai-Denmark Super League in 2017. Later that year, Valdez was tapped as an import for Chinese-Taipei Volleyball League team AttackLine.
Valdez has since returned home and continues to star in the Premier Volleyball League.
Dindin Santiago-Manabat (Volleyball)
The 6-foot-2 Dindin Santiago-Manabat rose to volleyball prominence as one of the cornerstones of the NU Lady Bulldogs in UAAP Season 75 to UAAP Season 76.
After playing in the local professional league from 2013 to 2019, a stretch that saw her capture two V-League MVP plums, Santiago took her talents to Japan as a member of the Toray Arrows in the Japanese V.League.
Dindin is currently playing for the Kurobe AquaFairies in Division 1 of the Japanese V.League
Jaja Santiago (Volleyball)
Also playing in Japan is Dindin Santiago-Manabat’s younger (and taller) sister Jaja Santiago.
In UAAP Season 80, the graduating 6-foot-5 hitter/blocker helped NU reach their first Final Four berth since UAAP Season 77, capturing the season MVP honors along the way.
The following year, Santiago also took her talents to The Land of the Rising Sun, playing for Ageo Medics in Japan’s V.League 1.
In the 2019-2020 season, Santiago helped the Ageo Medics to a bronze medal finish.
Marck Espejo (Volleyball)
5-time UAAP Men’s Volleyball MVP Marck Espejo was essentially the spark that helped bring the Ateneo Men’s Volleyball team back to prominence. Espejo helped lead the Blue Eagles to three straight titles in his five year UAAP career, not to mention a handful of individual awards.
In 2018, Espejo also went to Japan to play for the Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler club in the Men’s division of the Japanese V.League 1.
In 2019, Espejo took his talents from Japan to Thailand, where he now plays for the Visakha Volleyball Club in the Thailand Leauge.
Bryan Bagunas (Volleyball)
Bryan Bagunas helped bring glory back to the NU men’s volleyball program as he helped the Bulldogs dash Ateneo’s dreams of a four-peat by reclaiming the Men’s Volleyball crown in Season 80. Bagunas was named Finals MVP.
He would become a champion and a Finals MVP again the following year, while also capturing Season MVP honors to cap off his UAAP career.
In 2019, Bagunas announced that he was also signing with Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler of the Japanese V.League 1.
Patrick Deyto (Football)
Before becoming a mainstay in the Philippine Men’s National Football Team, Patrick Deyto was the star of the De La Salle Men’s Football team and was named best goalkeeper in UAAP Season 73 after helping the Green Archers to a Final Four berth.
After his UAAP career, Deyto suited up for multiple clubs such as Pachanga, Green Archers United and Global Cebu.
In 2019, Deyto joined Thailand’s Suphanburi FC, a member of the Thai League 1.
Ken Tuffin (Basketball)
FEU team captain Ken Tuffin isn’t done with the UAAP just yet, but he’s already competing semi-professional in New Zealand.
After getting the go-signal from FEU and the UAAP, the Filipino-Kiwi forward suited up for the Taranaki Airs in the New Zealand National Basketball League, Wednesday evening, starting and finishing with 10 points in 23 minutes of action.
Tuffin is expected to return to the Philippines after his NZ NBL stint to lead FEU in Season 82 next year.
Thirdy Ravena (Basketball)
The latest UAAP star to sign a deal overseas, three-time UAAP champion and three-time UAAP Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena is set to join Japan’s San-en NeoPhoenix in the Japanese B.League.
The athletic swingman helped Ateneo de Manila University to three straight UAAP Men’s Basketball Championships after a four-year title drought.
Ravena will be making league history as the first player to sign through Asian Player Quotas