Ever since Sean Manganti introduced himself to the UAAP, he has been somewhat on and off from opposing team’s radars. Known in his rookie season as an athletic dunker, few teams were worried about defending him, especially with more serious threats to contain such as Papi Sarr.And then a season later he went and broke Maroon hearts, once again bouncing into the collective consciousness of the league and tagging himself once again as “a guy who must be stopped”. His prominence in the spotlight was short lived as injuries hounded him, bringing more focus on his teammates such as Robbie Manalang, Papi Sarr, and Jerrick Ahanmisi.

But injuries heal, players leave, roles change and skills grow.

In UAAP Season 81, with Sean Manganti as the official captain of the Soaring Falcons, he started doing this. A lot.

Yet one game after putting up a career-high 27 points, he was held scoreless again. No one would have been faulted for thinking that his amazing scoring performance against UE was yet another flash in the pan. It would have been easy to write him off into irrelevance yet again.

But he refused to fade into obscurity and did this.

Unlike his previous game winner against UP, Sean Manganti set up the stage allowing that shot to happen. With the captain’s hat on, Manganti righted his sinking ship, plugging leak after leak, especially in the 3rd quarter.

UP was getting the better of Adamson by not allowing themselves to be trapped in the patented Pumaren full court press. Each time they inbounded the ball they made sure they had at least 3 recipients, one of which had to be Bright Akhuetie. This allowed their guards Juan Gomez De Liano and Paul Desiderio to leak out and attack the rim with Papi Sarr forced to pressure Bright at the half court.

UP was going wild in the 3rd quarter, scoring at will while the Falcons could not shake their 2nd quarter rut in which they scored an uncharacteristic 6 points. And then Manganti had enough.

Starting with a three-pointer, Captain Manganti took the wheel and led the charge. With Juan Gomez De Liano and Bright Akhuetie pouring in the buckets for UP, what ended up as a 10 point advantage very easily could have been 20 had it not been for Manganti’s 10 points that quarter.

Had it been Manganti of three seasons ago facing UP, he may have been content to just facilitate for his teammates. Had it been Manganti of last season, UP could have stopped him by clogging up the paint. But no, this season’s Manganti has a wider arsenal of scoring moves to choose from, and he would not be denied.

Instead of waiting for yet another tip-in opportunity, Captain Manganti kept pressing on the gas pedal, scoring 4 more points in the fourth quarter. His determination was infectious as main gunner Jerrick Ahanmisi hit a three-ball coming off a steal to bring the Falcons within one point, followed by a cold-blooded corner three from Jun Espeleta to finally get back the lead.

The Falcons failed to get a stop, forcing them to draw up a play with 5.4 seconds left in the game. A tip in was improbable as UP’s Bright Akhuetie was punishing them on the boards having already grabbed 20 of them.

The last time they were in this situation, Adamson went to Jerrick Ahanmisi for the final shot. This time Coach Franz Pumaren was pointing to one person to create off the timeout, Sean Manganti.

Off the inbound Manganti’s first instinct was to drop the ball off to Papi Sarr in the post.

Tipped.

He got the ball back.

With time running out he remembered what his coaches told him in the timeout, “They don’t have any shot blockers.”

So he put up the biggest teardrop of his career so far, a shot that helped him reach his career high in points two games ago, a shot he has been practicing for seasons, a shot he knew he could make, and it went in. Filoil Arena erupts in cheers, so does ST Quad, and every living room, canteen, office, waiting area or bus with a classmate watching.

This game has placed Sean Manganti squarely on opposing team’s radars yet again. The heroic game-winning shot is the least of opposing teams’ worries. Moreover, it’s the fact that when he wanted to, Sean Manganti could get any shot he wanted from anywhere in the court.

From making 6 three-pointers throughout Seasons 79 and 80, Manganti has now made 4 of them just 4 games into the season. But making his threes has not cut down on his aggressiveness going to the basket as his free throw numbers are on pace to beat his previous season averages. On his best year, he averaged 2.9 attempts at the free throw line per game, in Season 81 he’s already at 4.5 free throw attempts per game, a reflection of his willingness to drive to the hole.

His aggressive play and widened skill set is best seen in the effect it’s having on the team’s ratings.

Adamson has improved to a 95.94 offensive rating from last season’s 92.3. Minimal at first look and currently at the middle of the pack in relation to other teams this season. However, it’s when we factor in the league high 81.30 pace they’ve been playing that we see how a long, fast, versatile scorer like Manganti is making his mark on the league.

His team is already a force to be reckoned with, but Sean Manganti evolving into a multi-tool of a scorer is one of the reasons the Falcons have made been making a credible bid for title contention this season.

Only time will tell if Manganti can sustain this high level of play, or if this is even his final form (Mangantitokoumnpo, anyone?). For now, he’s on opposing teams’ radars again and it will be fun to see how Captain Manganti and the Falcons use the extra attention given to him.

Okay, maybe not so fun for the team playing him.