There’s a school in Intramuros that is feeling rather festive these days, especially after acquiring the services of stud wingman Rhenz Abando and friends Brent Paraiso and Ira Bataller. The Letran Knights, their administrators, and fans have one thing on their minds right now: DYNASTY!
It’s hard to blame them. It’s not every day that a premier UAAP talent crosses the border to showcase his basketball skill in the NCAA, which is not at the same level in terms of marketing prowess as the most popular league in the country.
But with Abando jumping ship from the flooded streets of Espana into the walls of Intramuros, how does this tip the balance of power in a league that has only seen two teams exchange titles in the past ten years?
Does Abando even fit in the greater scheme of things for Letran? How does he stand out?
Abando is a great off-ball operator given how he was utilized by resigned UST coach and program director Aldin Ayo. His athleticism let him feast off of picks and his elevation and jump shot form were just things of beauty. But will these be enough in a rough and tumble league?
Teams that the Knights will be facing should only be concerned with one thing: take Abando’s space away. During the second round of Season 82, most UAAP teams exposed the hype surrounding Abando. He was great, electric even, but teams were able to adjust thanks to the knowledge that his success was solely built on the schemes Ayo devised for the Tigers, and well, the presence of UAAP MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo.
Chabi Yo alone was enough to merit three defenders at the mid-post area, freeing up the likes of Abando and Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy to feast and capitalize on the defensive attention the MVP demanded. When left to his own devices, Abando turned into your average player. Yes, he was good, but not good enough.
The swingman couldn’t put the ball down on the floor. Your defense already succeeded the moment Abando wasn’t able to pull up after a catch. In the NCAA, it’s necessary to have that handle as the offenses and systems in place harken back to dinosaur basketball (no knock Coach Topex, I know you’re doing your share). To make things more hilarious, Abando reiterated he chose Letran and the NCAA due to the All-Filipino environment and added physicality, something he wasn’t really known to handle well in UST.
For all the athletic gifts and supposed scoring prowess Abando has, he was rag-dolled by bigger wings in the UAAP. There’s no other way to say it, as he was bullied from the get-go especially when lined up against the likes of Thirdy Ravena, Kobe Paras, and Jaime Malonzo to name a few.
But all hope is not lost. To his credit, Rhenz Abando is still an elite wing prospect that can score in bunches given the right system and situation. If he is able to work on his handles and gets more strength in his wiry frame (which is totally doable, ask Kevin Durant), he will be a more complete player that is ripe enough for the pros, and totally a cornerstone for the Letran program for at most two years.
With Chabi Yo out of the picture, and even Mark Nonoy, Abando will finally have the chance to be THE MAN.
Will Rhenz Abando be able to stand out and take more of a leadership role, or will he just be content to fit in, running off screens and catch-and-shoot-ing?