We’re now in the 2nd round of the UAAP basketball tournament and almost at the finish line. Rookies have played (or maybe just watched from the sidelines) in the 1st round of UAAP games and now have a sense of how games are like in the UAAP. Coaches will start trusting the first year players more as they have adjusted to the system of the team and will be asked to provide quality minutes even if its just a few chances here and there. They will be asked to hold down the fort and buy some rest time for the veteran players which is not a bad deal at all if you’re a rookie. Coaches will also want to keep their stars fresh for the Final Four which means more extra time spread out and might just be good news for our first year players.
Let’s look at the ladder this week and see who stood out.
5. Dawn Ochea
Might just turn the 5th spot into “featured rookie” spot. Ochea didn’t do much in the two games he played this week. He had a dime and held the fort for the regular rotation players which is not bad if you’re a rookie (better than no playing time). Coach Leo says even though Ochea is an undersized forward, he’s good at defense and positioning.
4. Paul Desiderio
Desiderio fell out of the rotation in two out of the three games before the resignation of coach Ricky Dandan. He scored four points in the game vs. Ateneo in six minutes. He provided quality minutes for a UP team that needs energy off the bench. He’s a scorer at heart and might just get more minutes with new coach Rey Madrid.
3. Kib Montalbo
Kib is quickly turning into one of my favourite rookies this season. He’s fast, a good defender, can score, and actually can do a lot of things well. DLSU had two games this week and Montalbo played 20 and 18 minutes respectively. He quickly proved he could be a solid guard on defense as he was the primary defender assigned vs. RR Garcia when he was on the floor. He handled the ball well and converted long jumpers. Kib probably wouldn’t be playing much if Thomas Torres was healthy but props to him for grabbing the opportunity. I think his solid play gets him minutes for the Archers moving forward. The next evolution to Montalbo’s game should see him working on threes and being more of a threat out on the perimeter. DLSU needs another guy apart from Vosotros and Salem to space the floor and be ready to shoot and Kib could fit into that role well as a rookie.
Axel missed the first game this week vs. DLSU because of a sprained ankle. He played 13 minutes in the slaughterfest game vs. NU, where the Falcons were massacred. He played solid minutes but dished only 2 assists grabbed 3 rebounds and not much else. We know Inigo is a solid player and will have better games once he is fully recovered from his ankle injury.
1. Kyles Lao
I don’t know Rey Madrid much but if I had to guess what changes he will make from the Dandan regime, I’d say Kyles Lao’s minutes need to go up. Lao’s minutes have fluctuated from the 15-20 mpg mark, way too low given his talent and the team’s situation. I think he could be best utilized/most effective when his minutes are at 25-30mpg. It will be interesting to see how the change in coaching staff affects the dynamics of the UP Fighting Maroons. In other news, Lao was his normal scorer self vs. ADMU, driving the lane, getting in transition and showing us why he’s a very dangerous scorer. I think its more or less a lock that Kyles Lao will win rookie of the year, unless somebody suddenly comes out of nowhere and plays out of their minds for the rest of the tournament.
Previous Rookie Ladders:
What makes a player in the UAAP eligible for the Rookie of the Year award?
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.