The recruitment wars in the UAAP Seniors basketball definitely took a different turn this year following the postponement of the Season 83 tournament due to the global pandemic. The long layoff resulted in an unprecedented offseason that has seen teams acquire multiple recruits and players transfer to other schools at an extraordinary rate.
With the return of the UAAP still up in the air (although there are rumors that the next season will start in January or February), teams have stockpiled talents not just for Season 83 but for the years to follow.
It has been ten months since the Ateneo Blue Eagles captured the Season 82 crown, and to say that a lot has happened during that span would be an understatement.
In this two-part series, we discuss some of the key offseason acquisitions per school, including recruits who are not yet eligible to suit up in Season 83. Here's Part 2 which covers Season 82 Final Four teams the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers, and Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. Read Part 1 here.
Key Acquisitions: RJ Abarrientos, Emman Ojoula, Kevin Guibao, Ximone Sandagon
Offseason grade: C+
One of the more interesting offseasons belonged to the FEU Tamaraws.
FEU's team captain, Ken Tuffin, went overseas to play in the New Zealand National Basketball League. Last year, Tuffin put up 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, while having steady aim from beyond the arc at 38 percent shooting. He was a calming presence and a consistent force for the Tamaraws who went on another Final Four run. He technically has one more playing year left in FEU should he decide to return when the UAAP resumes.
Cholo Añonuevo, a product of FEU's high school program, was set to join the Seniors division but also opted to go abroad. The 6-foot-4 athletic forward went to the United States to train. He can take different paths from there, but says he remains open for a possible return to FEU. In late August, he received an offer to play at Tennessee State University. The former Baby Tamaraw posted 9.1 points and 9.4 rebounds last year, including a few highlight-worthy dunks.
Losing Tuffin and a rising talent in Añonuevo overseas will hurt, but the Tamaraws recently acquired University of San Jose-Recoletos' Kevin Guibao. The Cebu native was the MVP of the 2019 CESAFI Partner's Cup, leading his team to the title. Ximone Sandagon from TIP will also make his way to Morayta.
FEU will have the services of high school star RJ Abarrientos and big man reinforcement Emman Ojoula, who have been in the pipeline and will finally be eligible for the coming season.
UP Fighting Maroons
Key Acquisitions: Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, RC Calimag, Miguel Tan, Sam Dowd, Alonso Tan, Anton Eusebio, Ethan Kirkness, CJ Cansino, Cyril Gonzales, Joel Cagulangan, Maodo Malick Diouf, Jancorck Cabahug, Bismarck Lina
Offseason grade: A
The dark days of the UP Fighting Maroons are long gone. After a two-decade-long Final Four drought, they made back-to-back postseason runs in the last two years, including a finals appearance in 2018.
Since then, the team has flaunted a superstar roster bannered by former MVP Bright Akhuetie, Kobe Paras, Ricci Rivero and Juan and Javi Gomez-de Liaño. They fell short of a second straight finals stint in Season 82, but there is no doubt that Bo Perasol has finally instilled a winning culture in UP.
The Fighting Maroons were dealt an early blow when the Gomez-de Liaño brothers announced that they will sit out Season 83 for personal reasons. The rest of the solid roster, however, remains intact and has since been reinforced by several notable recruits.
First on the list are the power tandem of Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano, Gilas Pilipinas Youth standouts and NU Bullpups champions. The 6-foot-8 Tamayo was recently named Juniors Finals MVP with averages of 12.6 points and 10.4 rebounds. Abadiano, an elite point guard, posted 11.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists last season. They both played for the Philippine team in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece.
Fellow Gilas Youth members RC Calimag, La Salle Greenhills' star who finished his high school career with an average of 20.6 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting, and Xavier's Miguel Tan, a 6-foot-5 wingman, also decided to join UP. Providing added boost to an already loaded team for Season 83 are Fil-Australian Ethan Kirkness, Fil-Am Sam Dowd, and Fil-Canadians Alonso Tan and Anton Eusebio.
Headlining the transferees who still need to complete the residency requirement before suiting up for the Fighting Maroons is the controversial CJ Cansino. UST's former captain was dropped from the Tigers roster and promptly transferred to UP shortly after the Sorsogon bubble came to light. Former Tiger Cub Bismarck Lina, who initially committed to UST, eventually joined Cansino in the move to the Maroon side.
Joel Cagulangan, a former NCAA Juniors MVP who barely played for La Salle in his collegiate rookie year, will showcase his shooting and playmaking skills in Diliman starting Season 84. Expected to fill the center void that Akhuetie will leave when he graduates is Senegalese Maodo Malick Diouf, a 6-11 transferee from CEU. University of Visayas' Jancorck Cabahug round out the star-studded recruits of the Fighting Maroons.
UST Growling Tigers
New coach: To be determined
Key Acquisitions: Joshua Fontanilla, Bryan Santos, Aldave Canoy, Daniel Coo
Offseason grade: F
No other team had a more tumultuous offseason than the UST Growling Tigers. From being runners-up a year ago, the bright future of the Tigers suddenly turned into a nightmare following the fallout of the Sorsogon bubble.
As of writing, a total of eight players have already jumped ship in pursuit of better opportunities. CJ Cansino and Bismarck Lina went to UP, while Mark Nonoy and Deo Cuajao are now Green Archers. Over at the NCAA, the trio of Rhenz Abando, Ira Bataller, and Brent Paraiso are now with Letran and Jun Asuncion is in Mapua. On top of all the transfers, head coach Aldin Ayo was slapped with an indefinite ban by the UAAP shortly after resigning from his post.
In Season 82, the Tigers were the breakout team of the league, finishing second to Ateneo. Less than a year later, the team and its basketball program are in shambles.
Only four players remain from UST's Season 82 squad, namely Soulemane Chabi Yo, Sherwin Concepcion, Dave Ando, and Migs Pangilinan. Without a head coach and an investigation still ongoing, there probably won't be any big names transferring to UST any time soon. However, that doesn't mean that all hope is lost for the Tigers. Before everything went sour, UST was able to acquire Joshua Fontanilla out of St. Clare and Bryan Santos from TIP. Then there's the pair of Bacolod natives in Aldave Canoy from STI-West Negros University, who will be available by Season 84, and Ateneo Blue Eaglet Daniel Coo.
The key for UST right now is getting its program back on its feet. A new head coach should enable the team to create a fresh start and eventually move away from the controversial training bubble in Bicol. And only then can the Tigers start aggressively recruiting once again.
Ateneo Blue Eagles
Key Acquisitions: Dwight Ramos, Eli Ramos, Gab Gomez, Forthsky Padrigao, Josh Lazaro, Dave Ildefonso, Chris Koon, Jordan Perez
Offseason grade: B+
The Ateneo Blue Eagles are coming off a historic season, achieving a 16-0 feat on their way to a 3-peat championship. Dethroning Ateneo does not look any easier despite the massive efforts of the rest of the league to reload and rebuild their programs.
Five key cogs in Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Adrian Wong left huge holes in the Blue Eagles' nest, but as long they still have Tab Baldwin, the genius mastermind behind their successful title runs, they remain the gold standard in collegiate basketball.
Ange Kouame, Gian Mamuyac, Tyler Tio, SJ Belangel, and Will Navarro will take over the veteran leadership duties, while Jolo Mendoza and Raffy Verano will re-join the fold after sitting out the previous season, as fresh faces are set to don the blue and white colors.
Dwight Ramos, a 6-foot-5 guard from Cal State Fullerton, will have two playing years with Ateneo. One of the newest Gilas Pilipinas pool members, Ramos is a promising prospect that has been on Baldwin's radar for years. He decided to suit up for the Blue Eagles alongside his younger brother, Eli, who graduated from Walnut High School.
Fil-Italian Gab Gomez, 20, will enter Ateneo as a post-graduate student but will have full eligibility years, subject to age limit, because he did not suit up for any collegiate team. He played with Gilas Youth point guard Dalph Panopio in the Bologna Basketball Playground Filipino recreational league. He also saw action in the 2019 NBTC National Finals in Manila, representing Italy Proudly Pinoy Europe alongside Cholo Anonuevo.
The Blue Eagles are looking formidable even beyond Season 83. Dave Ildefonso, NU's main man in the last two years, is returning to his high school alma mater. A Gilas Youth mainstay, Ildefonso said his main reason for transferring to Ateneo is his desire to continue representing the country, hoping that training under Baldwin will help him fulfill his dream.
Blue Eaglet star Forthsky Padrigao, also a Gilas Youth staple, committed to stay in Katipunan when he moves up to college in Season 84. He will be joined by his teammate Josh Lazaro, a 6-foot-5 forward who was part of the UAAP Juniors Mythical Team last year. Ateneo also added Fil-Kiwi Jordan Perez and Fil-Am Chris Koon in its loaded list of upcoming players.