Welcome to the first edition of the UAAP Rookie Ladder for HumbleBola! In this space, we will give you the weekly ranking of the UAAP’s best rookie players.
First, some definition of terms: What makes a player in the UAAP a rookie?
The UAAP differentiates between Rookies (freshman college students from local high schools) and first year players. Only rookies are eligible for the ROY award in UAAP, which means that players like Ateneo’s Chris Newsome, La Salle’s Jason Perkins and the other foreign-born first year players are not included in the mix for the award.
With that said, I’m very excited to watch the rising stars and developing role players that will eventually take over the league. After two weeks and ten UAAP games, we now have enough material to get to know the crop of young talent we have in the league.
Let’s look at the candidates for this year’s rookie race.
5. Joshua Aguilon
It was actually Aguilon’s first minutes of the UAAP season when they battled against the UP Maroons in their second game. He was active and got a basket and grabbed two rebounds in the blowout victory. Aguilon was a crucial part of the championship Baby Tamaraws team last year with Jerie Pingoy and FEU is undoubtedly pleased that he chose to continue his career with the Tamaraws. He’s definitely a great acquisition for the FEU team and he brings a winning culture and is an intriguing player to watch in weeks ahead.
4. Robert Bolick
Robert Bolick has a chance to be a solid role player and a good defensive player in the UAAP. He has the frame, lengthy arms and the hustle to be a solid contributor for the Green Archers sooner than leter. He’s played in every game thus far for the Green Archers but has failed to produce much in the time he was given. With the Green Archers already having a slew of guards in their rotation (Montalbo, Vosotros, Torres and Revilla), Coach Sauler might not find much minutes for Bolick moving forward. The only chance Bolick has now is if the injury bug bites the Green Archer’s backcourt.
3. Paul Desiderio
Coach Ricky Dandan likes to use a lot of guys in his rotation so Desiderio will probably share minutes with Lao, Wong, Ligad and Amar. He might not have been given a lot of minutes, but in the short time he had, he has shown glimpses of being a capable scorer. In their first game against Adamson, he found success driving to the basket and finishing with a floater. In the second game, he showed us that he had more range by hitting the mid-range jumper. We haven’t seen much, but this kid has some potential. He’s not the 2011 CESAFI juniors MVP for nothing. Hopefully he gets some more run in UP’s next games.
2. Axel Iñigo
Axel Iñigo seemed like he could be the point guard of the future for Adamson during its first game vs. UP. We have to credit Iñigo for taking advantage of the opportunity given to him because of the absence of Monteclaro. If Monteclaro played, maybe Iñigo might not have been in the rotation for that game.
Against the Maroons, he scored three points to go along with six assists, two steals and only one turnover in 13 minutes. He was dishing to open guys, running the offense and seemed to have the poise and control of a guard that’s been playing in the league for years. I remember watching an episode of NBA TV’s Open Court and Steve Smith (90’s NBA star) was talking about ball handling. He said that sometimes you can tell someone has a good ball handle when they don’t turn their backs when they dribble. It means that they’re confident enough in their ball handling ability that they don’t have to turn their backs to protect the ball against defenders. That point by Steve Smith is almost a perfect fit for Axel Iñigo. When the UP defense was pressuring him full court, he was just shrugging it off and knifing through it with speed and poise, something that rookie guards don’t usually do right off the bat.
But alas, inconsistency got the best of him against UST. The Growling Tigers exploited the young guard’s inexperience by pressuring the ball full court which resulted to several bad turnovers, forcing Coach Austria to look for other options off the bench. For the game, Iñigo finished the game with one point, zero assists and four turnovers.
1. Kyles Lao
Kyles Lao has scorer written all over him. He has an array of moves that allows him to finish at the basket with ease. Whether it’s spin-moves, side steps, floaters and other tricks, he’s got it. This kid is dangerous on the break and usually finishes strong even with bigger defenders challenging him.
In the first game versus Adamson, he made two layups on the break and also got a layup from a drive to the basket as he finished with six points and one steal in 14 minutes. However, It was against the DLSU Green Archers where he really shined. Against an intimidating front line of Perkins and Torres, he continuously attacked the basket and even had this ridiculously good spin move, fake and then layup that just left the defense dazed and confused. It’s really evident in Lao’s game that he probably drove down the lane a million times in high school, because he just has such a good feel for it and he just knows how to adapt to the defense. Also, what was most impressive for me is that he got to the line four times and knocked down 8/8 free throws. He was the main reason UP was in it for most of the game and he finished the losing effort with 18 points and three assists.
The next evolution to his game should be mastering the mid-range jumper. Teams are probably going to know that Lao is a good slasher and attacker and will adjust their defenses to make him prove that he can knock down some shots. Regardless of that though, he’s the front-runner for Rookie of the year now by a lot… Let’s just hope UP starts winning some games.
Other rookies to keep an eye on: Kib Montalbo, Andre Paras.