By Gio Gloria
Schools and books may beg to differ, but experience remains to be the best teacher. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. You name it. No matter the outcome, there is always a lesson to be learned from the nuances of daily life and the passage of time (and age).
DLSU Green Archer Andrei Caracut has experienced nearly anything and everything there is to experience in the UAAP. From winning it all to missing it all, the former Batang Gilas standout has also had his fair share of individual ups and downs. As his career with Green-and-White finally concludes, we take a look back at one of La Salle’s more popular players in recent memory.
When news came out that Caracut was heading to La Salle, there was a definite buzz that took away the sting of the Mac Belo dagger that prematurely ended DLSU’s Season 77 campaign. The San Beda high school program has produced stellar recruits that have joined the college ranks. JVee Casio and LA Revilla have won titles for La Salle, while the likes of LA Tenorio and Rev Diputado have brought championships to the Ateneo Blue Eagles and National University, respectively.
The former Red Cub’s performance in the 2015 FilOil Preseason tourney made the Lasallian community excited for Season 78, as he posted 22 points against his alma mater San Beda and 21 against the then-undefeated UE Red Warriors. Aside from being a knockdown shooter, he got to the basket with finesse and skill, a contrast to Jeron Teng’s knack for bullying his way to the basket.
Caracut got off to a solid start in UAAP Season 78, as he averaged 10.57 points in the first round, second in the team behind Teng. Alas, Caracut suffered an illness and missed two games. Despite the illness and failing to find his first round form, he nevertheless managed to earn Season 78 Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 9.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, beating out UST’s Marvin Lee by the slimmest of margins.
Season 79 presented an opportunity for Caracut to have a fresh start with Aldin Ayo coming in to replace Juno Sauler. Add to that Ben Mbala’s much-awaited inclusion into the equation and the incoming sophomore looked to be in a good environment to flourish with all eyes on the big man from Cameroon.
Unfortunately, Caracut couldn’t distance himself from the guard rotation of Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo, and then-rookie Aljun Melecio. Not to mention splitting two-guard minutes with Julian Sargent and Ricci Rivero. With his minutes halved, the former Red Cub 4.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, a far cry from his averages from a year ago.
His only double-figure performance in Season 79 came against Ateneo in the first round, when he dropped 14 first-half points in a 97-81 victory that La Salle earned without Teng, who sat out after having bone spurs from his foot removed. Caracut scored more in that game than in the 2016 postseason, as he managed to score 11 points during the Final Four and finals enroute to a title.
With Teng exhausting his eligibility, Caracut was expected to slide into his role in producing from the perimeter and complement Mbala’s inside game in UAAP Season 80. He scored in double-figures in four of the seven first-round games but after his 11-point performance against the UE Red Warriros, he failed to crack double-figures until the finals against Ateneo, where La Salle fell in three games.
It was in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 80 Finals against Ateneo where Caracut arguably played his best game that year. In need of an extra scoring punch, Ayo inserted the former Red Cub into the game and he proceeded to carry the load offensively for the Green Archers. Caracut’s 13 points allowed him to show facets of his repertoire that reminded fans of why he was a sought-after recruit in high school.
Once Mbala and Ayo left, Caracut was expected to gradually increase his offensive production on the court along with Melecio and Justine Balatazar. Aljun Melecio led the team in scoring, while Baltazar learned Season 81 Mythical Five honors. Caracut remained a contributor but his 9.1 points on 34.8 percent shooting from the field were a far cry from what you’d expect from a veteran.
With Season 82, being his final year, many expected Caracut to shoulder the offensive load with the graduation of Montalbo. He started all 14 games and although he averaged only 9.57 points per game, he took on more playmaking duties as evidenced by 4.43 assists per game. The career-high in assists showed that he was working on another facet of his game, one he would need heading to the pros.
However, Caracut ended his DLSU stint the same way he started it; out of the Final Four. La Salle struggled out of the gate thanks to tough losses to the UE Red Warriors and the UP Fighting Maroons, and although they earned key wins over the UST Growling Tigers and the Adamson Soaring Falcons, they were swept by Ateneo and the FEU Tamaraws. In what this La Salle’s most crucial game in Season 82, Caracut failed to score a single point in 19:12 minutes of action.
Caracut’s curtain call against Adamson ended on a more positive note and reminded everyone of the scoring ability that made him a blue chip recruit back in 2015. He hit three-pointers with ease and he finessed his way inside for layups and floaters, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds, and six assists. After the game, the graduating team captain let out no tears (at least not in public) and remained thankful for the five years with DLSU.
Considering the expectations laid on him since day one, he was unable to establish himself as a steady scoring presence that would have bridged the gap between the post-Teng, Mbala era and this current era of Green Archers. Even if he left with one championship and three Final Four appearances(which would be a solid resume for UAAP schools not named Ateneo and La Salle), he brings with him a ton of lessons moving forward. Among all of them, the biggest takeaway that he could carry moving forward was that he knew how to fight through adversity. Ailments and a revolving door of coaches did not stop him from earning Rookie of the Year honors and finding a role within their systems. Now that he’s moving onto the next chapter of his basketball career, he can use the lessons he learned in La Salle to build a more consistent career in the pro ranks.