Unlike most rookies, Kevin Ferrer was not afforded the time to adjust to the tougher and more competitive landscape of UAAP seniors basketball when he started suiting up for the UST Growling Tigers in 2011. He got the baptism of fire right away as he was thrust into the starting lineup by former UST coach Pido Jarencio at the small forward spot. After all, he was not an ordinary newcomer. Kevin Ferrer was a prized asset and was touted to be a cornerstone of the UST squad for the years to come. He was the one who bested an incredible baller named Kiefer Ravena for the 2010 UAAP Juniors MVP plum. He was the one who led the charge for the UST Tiger Cubs that handed the seemingly invincible Ravena-led Ateneo Blue Eaglets their solitary loss in Season 73.
When he came into the mix, the Growling Tigers already had Jeric Teng and Jeric Fortuna as the established gunners on offense. The entrance of Karim Abdul on the same year gave them a legitimate post presence, something they did not have since Jervy Cruz used up all his playing years. With these factoring in, Kevin got into an unfamiliar role — a starter but a non-primary scoring option. As UST preferred to occupy the middle on their offense, Ferrer, being one of the secondary options, would either station at the corner or cut at open spaces to create scoring opportunities for him. Numbers tell us he had an iffy maiden season. He ended up using only 18.6% percent of UST’s possessions and sported a lowly offensive rating of 79.8 points per 100.
While he was not the focal point of UST’s offense, he turned out to become the team’s primary stopper. Given his incredible length and wingspan plus his quickness and agility for his size, he went on to be a nightmare for the alpha dogs of opposing teams. Just ask Bobby Ray Parks, Jeron Teng, and Ravena. In this role, he would then on build his reputation as a menace with his overly aggressive individual defense and hard fouls that are borderline unsportsmanlike. Add to that is a bag of his theatrics that are funny yet somewhat unbearable — the flops after he takes jumpshots as if he was more brittle than a Cebu otap, and his shoulder shimmy a la Kevin Durant at the foul line which he retired some time ago.
Video from Youtube
Second season turned out to be not good as what he would have hoped. With the return of Aljon Mariano to the squad, Ferrer got bumped out of the starting rotation and received less playing time (from 26.9 to 20.9 minutes per game). His PER may have increased to 11.5, but it is still way below than the league average.
As Jeric Teng got injured, no thanks to Jeff Javillonar in Season 76, Ferrer was among the few Tigers who have risen to the occasion as he tallied a PER of 18 and registered career-highs on several statistics. He was also instrumental in taking the Growling Tigers to their second consecutive Finals appearance.
His impressive play in his junior season would not go on to the following year. With Teng graduating, 2014 was supposed to be his time. But his Season 77 campaign was saddled with injuries. As numbers suggested, it turned out to be a terrible year for Ferrer. He only had a 36.8% true shooting percentage and an offensive rating of 75.4, both of which were career lows.
Fast forward to present, the Growling Tigers appeared to have surprised everyone as they are currently jousting with the title favorites FEU Tamaraws for the top spot. And one of the main reasons for their ascension is the stellar play of Ferrer who is now on his fifth and final season. It is an understatement to say that he is having a phenomenal Season 78. Currently, he is sporting a PER of 35.4, the highest by any player since 2011. His tremendous individual performance perfectly translates with the team’s performance as suggested by his net rating of 38.4. This means UST outscores its opponents by 38.4 per 100 possessions when he is on the court. And considering that he is averaging thirty minutes, that means a lot. Only FEU’s Raymar Jose, the tito basketball connoisseur, has a better net rating than him (39.3) but he plays seven minutes less.
So what spelled the difference for him this season? For one, he has no injury concerns to worry about. Another is the contrasting performances of UST’s two vital cogs in Ed Daquioag and Karim Abdul so far this season.
Similar to Ferrer, Daquiaog is putting up a magnificent Season 78 (24.5 PER and 96.5 ORTG). With Easy Ed’s brilliance on offense, opposing teams have been putting premium defense on him which frees Ferrer up to do a damage of his own. His true shooting percentage this season skyrocketed to a career-best 60.9%. This can be attributed to his much-improved three-point shooting. In his first four years, Ferrer was never a decent marksman from the outside. He was atrocious, as a matter of fact. He has only reached the 20% mark once in four seasons. But this year, he has suddenly found his stroke, shooting at 42.5% clip. Considering his heavy volume of three-point attempts (6.7 per game), he is doing huge favors for UST with his work from downtown.
On the other hand, Karim Abdul, UST’s anchor inside since the Paleolithic era, has a down year. His numbers are down across almost all categories. As one of the elite rebounders in the last four years, Abdul is only posting a pedestrian (for a big man) rebounding splits of 8/19/14. Fortunately, Ferrer is filling up the slack, clobbering 13.8% of the available rebounds.
With a lot of games still left to play, there is a good chance that Ferrer’s absurd numbers might go down. Given his impressive play in the early going, defense will surely tighten up on him. Also, the law of averages might play a factor here soon. A 42.4% three-point rate on a high volume of attempts for 14 games in UAAP is one difficult feat to pull off, but definitely not impossible. But for now, let’s enjoy this majestic Kevin Ferrer’s final show on the collegiate level.