Finally the storm has passed, UAAP games have been played again, and we have a decent enough sample size of games to make a decent ranking.

Before we continue, some things to consider:

1. We will follow the UAAP format of having just one foreign student-athlete (FSA) within the Mythical 5. Case in point: The last two seasons have featured Papi Sarr in the Top 5 of the MVP Race, but he was excluded in the Mythical 5 since Ben Mbala had a higher statistical point output than him. This isn’t meant to discriminate: we just want to be uniform with the way we handle these rankings. So it’s a simple idea: Only 1 FSA within the Top 5. 

2. We won’t be following any formula for this MVP Race (Just like how it is with the NBA!), but take note of this frame of thought this column will aim to follow over the season: 

50 percent individual stats, 25 percent actual impact on the court, 15 percent intangibles, 10 percent team record

Individual stats are given due consideration since over the past years, the MVP has been decided largely by the stats of a player. 1/4 of the computation is allotted to actual impact on the court. These are the “little things” such as how one moves within the system, his activity on the defensive end, so on so forth. Intangibles, in one word, #PUSO. Team record should be self-explanatory.

We won’t be doing any concrete computations using this frame of thought. It’s just something to keep in mind when it comes to how the rankings are done.

3. This is a MOST VALUABLE list, not a BEST PLAYER list. Those are two completely different topics altogether

With that being said, here’s Week 1 of the MVP Race four game days into the season.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Matt Nieto and Angelo Kouame (Ateneo Blue Eagles), Justine Baltazar and Santi Santillan (DLSU Green Archers), Dave Ildefonso (NU Bulldogs), Bright Akhuetie (UP Fighting Maroons), CJ Cansino (UST Growling Tigers)

5. Alvin Pasaol, UE Red Warriors

Averages: 25.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG

Let me start by saying that deciding on this fifth spot was incredibly tricky. Any of the honorable mentions could have taken Pasaol’s spot in the MVP Race. All of those mentioned above have at least won a game for their respective teams, but what made me decide to choose Pasaol over the other candidates was the frame of thought we were going to follow for this column.

Pasaol has monster statistics, and it’s likely he’ll continue having these types of numbers as the season rolls on. This was especially evident in UE’s game versus Adamson, as no one in the Soaring Falcons side could stop him. He tirelessly rebounded the ball and found positioning for baskets around the rim. He’s probably lost three kilos because of how much work he’s been putting for the Red Warriors. That’s the problem, however: he’s just one guy. As talented and as hard working as he is, he can’t do it all. So despite the big numbers and the highlight plays, UE will unlikely even contend for the Final Four this season.

But that’s why Pasaol has value, because without him, the Red Warriors would probably be facing deficits far larger than what they’ve seen so far. Unless UE wins games, this is where you’ll find Pasaol in this column: as an honorable mention or covering the last two spots in the Top 5. He might make the Mythical Five this season, but since his team is still too raw, he can’t reach heights he could potentially reach with his effort and talent.

4. Thirdy Ravena, Ateneo Blue Eagles

Averages: 12.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG For all intents and purposes: Thirdy Ravena did not have a good first game. He had an incredible highlight towards the end after dunking on the what felt like the entire Adamson Soaring Falcons with some of his teammates joining in as well in the poster. Otherwise, it wasn’t his best of games.

Here’s the thing with legitimate superstars: they have this thing called the resillience gene. LeBron has it. Kobe has it. Jordan has it. Kiefer, Mbala, you name it. Add Thirdy to the list of names who has that gene. He didn’t look shook the next game versus UP, went ahead and bodied an entire team it felt like, and produced in the levels you’d expect a Thirdy Ravena to produce. Steady play that’s within the system employed by Coach Tab, and knowing when to go isolation in the low post where no one can stop him.

Don’t be surprised if Thirdy rises up the ranks in the next few weeks. One bad game can’t destroy the MVP case of arguably the best local in the league, let alone the case for a championship of an entire team that’s looking to go back to back.

3. Papi Sarr, Adamson Soaring Falcons

Averages: 11.5 PPG, 15.0 RPG

He hasn’t displayed the same, dominant form we got accustomed to during his first two seasons in the league, but he hasn’t really had to. Papi Sarr has just focused on doing the little things that Adamson’s needed over the course of this season, and it’s paid dividends so far.

Here’s the thing Papi can use against the hulking imports of today: his experience. It was especially evident versus Angelo Kouame, as he outsmarted the rookie out of Ivory Coast a number of times in the game of the Soaring Falcons versus the Blue Eagles. It’s the little things that comes from years of in-game experience in the UAAP. Little fakes that catch a big man off guard. Or just a couple of nudges that help in getting position for the rebound.

He still isn’t the rim protector you’d expect out of a foreign student athlete, but you can’t deny Papi’s effectiveness down low. He’s been to the Final Four for two years now. A trip to the Final would be nice to wrap up his last hurrah as a Soaring Falcon.

2. Jerrick Ahanmisi, Adamson Soaring Falcons

Averages: 20.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG

We found Jerrick Ahanmisi perched in similar positioning two seasons ago as an MVP candidate. But we can confidently say there’s a stronger case that he stays in this race longer than he did in Season 79.

The biggest reason for that: his increased aggressiveness on the offensive end. It’s been the gripe of plenty of people when talking about Ahanmisi. There are multiple instances where he elects to pass out the ball in pressure situations, and simply doesn’t bother to try and attack off the dribble. This season, he’s been doing that, and then some.

Those little wrinkles to his game have turned an already deadly offensive weapon into someone who bends defenses in angles that we’ve never seen before from him. His shooting has always been a game-changer for Adamson. Turning into an even more complete player simply raises his case as an MVP candidate for Season 81.

1. Juan Gomez de Liano, UP Fighting Maroons

Averages: 22.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.0 APG

Colin Salao put it best in his Power Rankings: “The King Maroon Juan Gomez De Liano era has officially begun.” We saw glimpses of his greatness last season as a rookie, but we thought he was two years away from turning into a legitimate weapon for the Fighting Maroons. Scratch that. He already is A PROBLEM as early as now.

He’s essentially become the primary playmaker of the UP offense. While Paul Desiderio is busy running around screens, Juan is the one who attacks off ball screens and creates for himself or for others. What’s even more impressive with how Juan GDL has operated is the control he’s showcased in doing so. No wasted movements. Every step back is with purpose. And it’s created a number of highlight plays in the process.

Juan Gomez de Liano is legit. There’s no other way to say it. He’s going to be in this race for quite some time, up until he finishes his years of eligibility come Season 84.