After ending Final Four drought, UP gets first MVP winner in 32 years

November 19, 2018 - 12:11 PM
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Bright Akhuetie
UAAP Season 81 MVP Bright Akhuetie (Philstar.com/file photo)

University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons star center Bright Akhuetie is set to be awarded the University Athletics Association of the Philippines Season 81 Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first Maroon to win the coveted plum in 32 years.

The feat came just a week after the state university secured its first Final Four berth in 21 years.

The 6’8 Nigerian center racked up averages 18.9 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals to bag a leading 82.50 statistical points in the league’s MVP race, ABS-CBN news reported on Monday.

Ateneo Blue Eagles’ center Angelo Kouame came in second with 76.21 SPs, after averaging 14.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks in his rookie year.

Akhuetie will be the first Maroon to bag the men’s Most Valuable Player award since former PBA player Eric Altamirano in 1986, the same year the Maroons last won the men’s basketball crown.

The Maroons’ newcomer who paved the way for the state university’s return to basketball success received praise within  hours after the announcement.

He will reportedly be joining teammate Juan Gomez de Liaño, De La Salle University’s Justine Baltazar, University of the East’s Alvin Pasaol and Adamson’s Jerrick Ahanmisi in the Mythical Five.

Ateneo’s Kouame, a rookie from Cameroon, will reportedly be excluded from the Mythical Five despite finishing second in the MVP race as only one slot is reserved for foreign players.

Maroons move on

Akhuetie first entered the local college basketball scene as a center for the University of Perpetual Health Altas in the National Collegiate Athletics Association, bagging back-to-back Mythical Five awards in his two years and Final Four berths for the Southern Manila-based school.

His transfer to UP was confirmed in January 2017, after months of speculation about his cross-over to a UAAP school.

Akhuetie along with a rejuvenated Maroons led by young talents such as the de Liaño brothers and star gunner Paul Desiderio finished 8-6 in November 2018, to secure the third seed in the Final Four after years of finishing in the league’s bottom half.

The Maroons last made the semi-finals under the UAAP’s Final Four format in 1997.

They will be going up against the No. 2 Adamson Soaring Falcons, who swept them in the elimination round.