By Gio Gloria
Homecoming season continues to be in full effect for college basketball as Evan Nelle is set to return to La Salle after spending the past few years with the San Beda Red Lions.
The timing could not have been better for the DLSU Green Archers as they recently lost Joel Cagulangan who transferred to UP after just one year with La Salle. Nelle will be eligible to play for DLSU in UAAP Season 84, ensuring the team would still have a blue-chip player once the likes of Aljun Melecio and Justine Baltazar graduate.
Having previously played for De La Salle Zobel during his grade school days, Nelle transferred to San Beda for high school where he won two NCAA high school championships. He stayed with the Red Lions for college, winning a title playing behind former Green Archer Robert Bolick, before taking over lead point guard duties for the team in NCAA Season 95.
Those following the Green Archers may have only gotten a glimpse of Nelle during the past two FilOil preseason tourneys, but avid fans of the Philippine college basketball scene know that he is coming off a stellar NCAA Season 95 where he averaged 10.2 points, a league-leading 6.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals, numbers that earned him Mythical Five honors and the second spot in the MVP race after teammate Calvin Oftana. Though his team failed to clinch the four-peat, he was largely responsible for guiding San Beda to an 18-0 regular season record.
Passing and playmaking will definitely be the facet of his game that will stand out, considering that it was what he was known for since high school. In his final season with the Red Cubs, he averaged 14.2 points, 6.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals, numbers similar to that of his second year with the senior San Beda squad. This knack for getting his teammates involved will bode well for DLSU, a team that was second in the UAAP in assists at 16.23 dimes per game. Crisp ball movement usually led to a La Salle win and the addition of Nelle will ensure that this continues.
Beyond the numbers, Nelle also brings with him a winning mentality, having won championships with the Red Lions in both the juniors and seniors levels. While his passing ability takes up all the headlines, he isn’t afraid to take big shots down the stretch and when needed can also serve as a secondary offensive threat off the ball. On defense, Nelle will be counted on to pressure opposing guards, with his high steal numbers proving he is capable of being a two-way threat on both ends of the court.
For the Green Archers, this is a huge development considering that Nelle comes from a storied Red Lions program where he is guaranteed a premiere role. Moving to a team like La Salle is like coming into a rebuilding situation considering the roster and coaching staff turnover. The competition in the UAAP is quite different from that in the NCAA and shifting from a marquee role on a championship team to that of a contending squad shows the former Red Cub is open to the challenge.
Getting a pass-first guard in Nelle’s mold is a sign of a new direction from team management as compared to the previous years when DLSU would thrust score-first guards into floor general roles, a move that would stunt development and disrupt the chemistry within the team. Come Season 84, the likes of Encho Serrano and Jordan Bartlett can take on more scoring opportunities while assuming playmaking duties when Nelle is on the bench.
Nelle joins the long list of former Red Lions who will now play for the Green Archers, with former Red Cub and Green Archer Jvee Casio among one of 21-year old’s idols growing up. Although the Lasallian community will have to wait for a year before he suits up for La Salle, there is hope that this transition year will help him fully integrate into the system of DLSU head coach Derrick Pumaren and eventually do what most former Red Cubs-turned-Green Archers do: Bring a title back to Taft Avenue.