Twelve Humblebola writers were asked to submit their 5-man ballot for the MVP as of this point in UAAP Season 82. Each first-place vote was worth 5 points, each second-place vote was worth 4 points, and this continued all the way until the fifth-place vote worth 1 point (ex. 5 first place votes, 3 second-place votes, 4 third-place votes = (5×5) + (3×4) + (4×3) = 49 points).

The players were then ranked from 1 to 5 according to their total score.

In case of a tie, the team with the most votes of the higher place was the winner. 

Example: Player 1 would rank higher in this scenario

Player 1 – 48 points, 5 first-place votes

Player 2 – 48 points, 4 first-place votes

With that, let’s go through our Top 5 contenders so far for UAAP Season 82: 

5. Rey Suerte, UE Red Warriors (8 points, 3 fourth place votes, 2 fifth place votes)

He came into the league as a scoring dynamo, punctuating his greatness by burying La Salle with back-to-back threes to give UE their first win. But since then, defenses have adjusted. This was especially evident versus the UP Fighting Maroons, as the UP defense hounded Suerte with hard doubles and traps. 

Great players find ways to adjust and Suerte’s done just that. If there’s one thing which separates Suerte from other UE great Alvin Pasaol, it’s Rey’s ability to make others better. Suerte’s embraced the role of being UE’s primary playmaker, starting plays a lot with high ball screen action with Alex Diakhite. The results have been promising, as the two have emerged as one of the deadliest one-two punches in the league. 

It’s a shame this is Suerte’s lone year with UE; he could have been a UE legend in the echelon of the likes of Paul Lee and James Yap. But nonetheless, Red Warrior fans will cherish whatever he gives them for his one and done season. They’re getting one of the most gifted offensive players in the league; the anchor of a team that’s looking to go from cellar-dweller to Final Four contender. 

4. Justine Baltazar, DLSU Green Archers (9 points, 1 third place vote, 3 fourth place votes)

Photo Credit: UAAP

It’s easy to make a case for Balti now after he put up 25 points and 25 rebounds versus the NU Bulldogs last Sunday. In fact, others will probably even argue he should be one of the top two candidates right now. But hold your horses; Balti has been great, but not in THAT level just yet. 

Balti’s case isn’t strengthened by big games. In fact, before he blew up versus the NU Bulldogs, he had a sub-par showing versus the UST Growling Tigers. But the beauty with Balti is even if he doesn’t produce as much as you’d expect an MVP candidate to produce, he still finds ways to keep himself effective for DLSU. Whether it be by sealing for the sake of offensive flow or setting good, hard screens to make life easier for playmakers, he always does things for the betterment of the Green Archers.

It won’t get any easier for Balti moving forward. He has the monster frontline of Ateneo up next and defenses will surely adjust to his play down low. But that’s the thing, Balti’s become used to adjusting to various situations anyway. From playing behind Ben Mbala and Abu Tratter to becoming La Salle’s best big man, he simply does his job. And he’s damn good at it; a sign of someone ready to make the leap to the pros. For now, he shows his wares in the collegiate level.

3. Bright Akhuetie, UP Fighting Maroons (24 points, 8 third place votes)

A lot of people have tagged Kobe Paras as UP’s most valuable player this season and for good reason! He’s been their top scorer and has anchored the offense ever since he’s donned the UP jersey. But let me make a case for another Fighting Maroon, the guy who’s actually the reigning MVP this season.

Bright Akhuetie has been a hard sell ever since he came into the UAAP. He hasn’t displayed the same explosiveness as he did when he was with Perpetual. He’s looked a step slower. Some have even gone as far as to call him fat. Maybe there’s truth to these claims, but one thing Bright’s gained that can’t be seen easily; basketball IQ.

Bright has emerged as not only the most consistent player for the Fighting Maroons, but also the smartest. Aside from making the smartest gambles when defending guards (those hands are QUICK), he’s easily the most efficient player in UP on offense. He rarely forces shots and has exerted most of his energy into setting screens, or grabbing rebounds off missed baskets. It may not always be pretty, but there’s value in that. So much value, in fact, that there’s a case for him to be MVP once again.

Battle of the Titans

Originally, the Humblebola team voted Angelo Kouame over Soulemane Chabi Yo for Midseason MVP, with the Blue Eagle getting two more points over the Growling Tiger. But after their clash last Saturday, it feels criminal to rank one over the other. The race between these two has been THAT close and quite frankly, they’ve been a cut above the rest. Let’s make the case for each of these candidates. 

1b. Soulemane Chabi Yo, UST Growling Tigers 

If you put Chabi Yo’s and Ange’s stats beside each other, the case for Chabi would be really easy. He produces more. UAAP MVP is based off of statistics. Therefore, Chabi Yo should be MVP, right? Simple math, right?

Chabi Yo has been an absolute force on the offensive end. While he lacks the size and girth expected of most foreign student athletes (FSAs), he makes up for it with incredible skill and agility. He’s actually not a center; he’s a wing trapped inside a (Filipino league) power forward’s body. It’s how he overwhelmed Ateneo during their first meeting. Too quick for Ange, too strong for Will Navarro.

But that’s the thing, stats aren’t everything. While he does produce incredible numbers offensively, his defense is a bit lacking. It isn’t because he doesn’t try. It’s simply a matter of circumstance. He isn’t very long. His athleticism can only do so much. While he can block a few shots here and there, his impact in terms of intangibles isn’t THAT game-changing. It’s not to say Chabi Yo isn’t valuable. But when the field is THIS talented, you need to find ways to establish yourself as a cut above the rest.

1a. Angelo Kouame, Ateneo Blue Eagles

Photo Credit: UAAP

Best player on the best team. It’s one of the most used arguments when making the case for MVPs and it can easily be used for Ange. But he has competition in Thirdy, so let’s use a more apt term for someone like Ange: MOST VALUABLE player on the best team.

While he doesn’t produce as well as Chabi Yo, he makes up for it with impeccable play on the defensive end. His 4.5 blocks per game don’t even tell the whole story as his value goes beyond that number. Since he’s such a dominant force in the paint, the guards of Ateneo have the luxury to be more aggressive when defending guards. If all else fails, they can easily funnel penetrators to Ange. Try to attack his pick and roll defense and he will overwhelm you with an unfair blend of length and nimble feet. He is the anchor of a defense that is establishing itself as arguably the best the UAAP has ever seen.

But, that’s the thing, he plays for the best team. It’s an argument that haunted Steph Curry and Kevin Durant with the Warriors. When you play with someone as talented as Thirdy Ravena and play in a system as robust as the Blue Eagles, that can be used against you. His intangibles are incredible, but production matters a lot in this race. 

So who probably gets it?

This is a tough question to answer because in the first place, the UAAP doesn’t use whatever formula the Humblebola team used which is to simply vote according to what they believe in (which is, you know, what the NBA also does). But let’s try to balance it accordingly for the sake of this exercise. Statistics. Perceived value. How each player projects to be moving forward. How does that all play out?

Chabi Yo will easily beat Ange out in terms of points and rebounds because of how heavily involved he is within UST’s offense. But what makes Ange such a tough candidate to beat is the fact that he’s a nightly double-double threat and Ateneo winning games gives him extra statistical points. That’s really where this race will boil down to; whether the success of the Blue Eagles will be enough to catapult Ange past the individual dominance of Chabi Yo. It seems like such a cop out, but there really isn’t a wrong answer to this question. This is the tightest race the UAAP has seen for the MVP award ever since Season 78, which was ironically between an Atenean (Kiefer Ravena) and a Thomasian (Kevin Ferrer) as well. It’s a fun time to be a basketball fan.

…….. But fine. I’m taking Angelo Kouame by a hair. If he doesn’t get it, I won’t even be surprised. At all.