After a roller-coaster journey in the early parts of his collegiate career, Fran Yu capped off his breakout season in the NCAA with a Finals MVP award following an unforgettable performance that powered the Letran Knights to the Season 95 championship.
Yu delivered averages of 13.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.0 steals for the Knights in the hard-fought finals series that put an end to the San Beda Red Lions' three-year title reign.
"It's a great feeling to win the championship," Yu said in Filipino. "I never dreamed of the individual award. My dream was to be a champion and for all of us to raise the trophy."
The 5-foot-10 point guard made sure to give back to the school that revived his basketball career, which was in limbo four years ago after he and teammate Bonbon Batiller got cut from the UE Red Warriors' lineup.
After that heartbreak, Yu decided to take his talents abroad and play for Traill International School in Thailand. While in Bangkok, he received a call from Batiller, encouraging him to return to the country and join him in Letran, as requested by former Knights head coach Jeff Napa.
"We no longer had careers but coach Jeff picked us up. He motivated us until we reached this point. Until now, he's still helping us," said Yu. "Thanks also to coach Bonnie (Tan) for giving us a chance. I'm just repaying the trust that my coaches gave me."
Before starring in Letran's title run and making a name in the NCAA, Yu became a victim of cyber-bullying in 2015 when he was still playing for UE in the UAAP.
A Facebook post that mocked his appearance became viral, with a caption that said: "At saang kanto naman napulot ng UE ang player nilang ito? (In which street corner did UE pick up this player?)" It was followed by a comment that said: "Namamasada yan, nag-break lang (He's a driver who just took a break)."
The original post and the negative comments that came with it initially shattered Yu's morale and confidence. But he later on used them to fuel his burning desire to improve his game and help his team win a championship.
"That post became my motivation. I've had sleepless nights back then," said Yu. "I just wanted to prove to the person who posted it that looks do not matter when you're playing basketball."
Yu's hard work in the last couple of years paid off as he now has a gold medal and a Finals MVP to show, in addition to the Most Improved Player award that he also won this season. What an inspiring journey it had been for someone who once thought his collegiate career in the Philippines was over.
Now, he only has one thing to say to his online bashers:
"Hi, I'm Fran Yu, and we are champions."