The top 10 collegiate basketball players

Robi Raya
They’re the best of the best, the crème de la crème -- the 10 players that stood out all season and gave fans an extra reason to cheer

MANILA, Philippines – They’re the best of the best, the crème de la crème — the 10 players that stood out all season and gave fans an extra reason to cheer.

As the college basketball season comes to a close, we recognize those who are clearly a cut above the rest.

These players were integral and played huge parts in their respective teams’ success this year.

Some performed so well that they’ve figuratively dropped their names in the PBA’s lottery bucket in the coming drafts. One is pro-ready while another was so impressive he’s already playing in the PBA and has produced huge double-double games to energize and give his team much needed character and spunk.

Behold, my pick of the 10 best college basketball players in the country for 2012:

10. GREG SLAUGHTER, Ateneo de Manila University
STATS: 13.12 PPG, 9.82 RPG, 1.82 APG, 2.82 BPG, FG% 49.7

Greg Slaughter brought one crucial ingredient to the the 5-peat champions this year: size.

His presence was huge for the Blue Eagles on both sides of the ball. While he was a glaring liability on pick-and-roll defense, the value of an 84-inch human pole in the paint can’t be overstated. His length and size changed a lot of the opponents’ shots and denied almost three a game.

The graduating center was a game-changer in the sense that teams altered their usual offensive game plans when they played Ateneo. All of the teams even stacked up on big men just to match up with the Blue Eagles — a testament to Greg Slaughter’s value.

Although his scoring dipped slightly this year, his mere presence attracted so much attention from the defense that Nico Salva and Kiefer Ravena both upped their scoring averages this season.

There’s no doubt that the Blue Eagles wouldn’t have won it all this year without the biggest man in college.

9. BASER AMER, San Beda College
STATS: 9.89 PPG, 5.00 RPG, 6.16 APG, 1.00 SPG, FG% 36.4

Baser Amer’s meager point production and awful shooting clip pale in comparison to other dynamic guards in college.
But he was the best player on the best team in the NCAA. He put everything in place for the Red Pride.

For much of Season 88, Amer was like a Swiss Army knife for San Beda. He rebounded caroms when his team needed him to. He played neck-breaking defense when head coach Ronnie Magsanoc asked him to (which was all the time). He drained huge shots from Caidic Country to stop opponents’ rallies or spark his team’s own. He exquisitely played the pick-and-roll with San Beda’s big men and penetrated at will to get his shooters open.

The Davao native and proud Muslim is the only pure point guard on the list — so begs the question: Is he the best pure point guard in college? I would think so.

8. TERRENCE ROMEO, Far Eastern University
STATS: 18.86 PPG, 5.64 RPG, 3.50 APG, 1.43 SPG, FG% 39.6

Terrence Romeo has more baggage than the average basketball fan would prefer. He stalled FEU’s offensive sets Melo-style — forcing too many tough shots and not knowing when and if to pass. But his talents far outweigh his flaws.

Rather than just labeling him as a ball hog, critics should appreciate and embrace more his electric qualities. The combination of slick and nasty New York playground-style ball handling, incredible head-shaking accuracy from the perimeter (he shot 40% from the field — a very good clip for a college guard), and James Yap-like footwork, is unheard of in college basketball.

Surely, FEU wouldn’t have gone far without him.

7. JERON TENG, De La Salle University
STATS: 16.27 PPG, 6.93 RPG, 2.73 APG, FG% 38.6

Before UAAP Season 75, the DLSU Green Archers, like any tribe of monkeys, needed an alpha male. They needed someone with confidence, spunk, and attitude to lead them, someone who was the clear-cut best player.

In Season 75, Jeron Teng proved to be every bit of what the Archers needed. He had a special kind of swagger that said “I may be a rookie but I know that I’m the best player on this team.” For the rest of the Green Archers, going to a ball game with Jeron Teng on your side was extra ammo.

Despite being like a rough diamond offensively, his ability to just shoot the ball and the command he demanded freed up his teammates. No defender stopped him from going hard to the basket. Whenever someone was blocking his way, he just plowed through with sheer strength and ferocity. He had an uncanny nose for where his missed shot would be. He instinctively followed the ball and put it back where it belonged.

Teng’s size and strength helped the Archers’ big men a great deal in grabbing rebounds at the small forward spot. Defensively, he wasn’t as good as Parks and Ravena, but the tools were obviously there.

If DLSU are to be successful in the coming UAAP seasons, they need Jeron Teng to continue to vehemently assume the alpha dog status and to provide even more on both sides of the floor.

6. KARIM ABDUL, University of Santo Tomas University
STATS: 15.82 PPG, 11.59 RPG, 1.82 APG, 1.47 SPG, 1.71 BPG, FG% 45

Karim Abdul’s continued improvement was the last piece to the championship-contending puzzle that head coach Pido Jarencio was trying to solve the past few years.

The offensively more polished 20 year-old Cameroonian put everything in place for the Tigers. The defensive pressure on UST’s guards were loosened, the hands glued to the face of their shooters gone, and Aljon Mariano had so much barren land to work with to breakout last season, all because of Abdul’s presence down low.

Abdul’s footwork on the block immensely improved. He showed new shots in his arsenal and his hook shot was more accurate. He turned out to be one of the best back-to-the-basket big men in college. Abdul, who only learned to play organized basketball when he was 17, also maintained his tenacious approach to rebounding.

Because of how he improved overall, Abdul was primed to lead UST once more to the Finals. His ability to recognize when to defer to his teammates and when to quietly take over and dominate games was an integral ingredient to the Tigers’ success this season.

5. KEVIN ALAS, Letran College
STATS: 20.90 PPG, 5.00 RPG, 4.57 APG, 1.95 SPG, FG% 37.6

Kevin Alas throws up shots from weird and awkward angles but they somehow effectively find the bottom of the net. Neither is he the best defender, and his decision-making and shot selection need some fine-tuning. But he gets the job done.

Alas has to work on finding his teammates who are in the best position to score, but he lifts his team to another level with his offensive brilliance and self-confidence. In Season 88, Alas’ excellence gave his teammates confidence that they could win a games. He lifted an offensively challenged lineup to the NCAA Finals — somewhere only a few thought they could reach.

More than his outside shooting, what separated Kevin Alas from most of the guards in college was how slippery and elusive he was — how he got to anywhere on the court at will. On top of this, he went to the foul line more than any guard in college.

If Kevin Alas learns how put his teammates in the best position to score, and if learns to make better and smarter decisions like my number 4 pick, I think he can be an effective starting point guard in the PBA for a long time.

4. KIEFER RAVENA, Ateneo de Manila University
STATS: 16.00 PPG, 5.41 RPG, 3.41 APG, 1.00 SPG, FG% 46.7

There were two versions of Kiefer Ravena this season.

Kiefer 1.0, the version that showed up for his freshman year and the first round of Season 75, was a two-guard who just went with the flow. He waited painstakingly for his chances on head coach Norman Black’s dump-the-ball-to-the-big-man offense. He was the same unstoppable penetrator, arguably the best in college, and the impeccable decision-maker he was in his first year.

The change was in how he traded his habit of gambling in the passing lanes (as shown by the dip in his steals average) for the diligence to stay in front of the opponents’ best player. He evolved to an elite on-ball defender this year from being a so-so defender last year.

Kiefer 2.0, the version that showed up somewhere in the middle of the second round, still occasionally deferred to Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter but he now wasn’t shy of waving people off to go one-on-one and take over games. Kiefer 2.0 was the perfect version the Blue Eagles needed to win their fifth straight considering how teams were able to slow down Slaughter and Salva.

In Season 75, Kiefer Ravena showed what he is really capable of doing. He matured into an elite collegiate defender and into the best decision-maker in college. For being smarter on both ends of the floor, I ranked him over Kevin Alas.

3. IAN SANGGALANG, San Sebastian College
STATS: 19.26 PPG, 11.58 RPG, 1.11 APG, 1.11 SPG, 1.42 BPG, FG% 57

Ian Sanggalang, hands down, is the best big man in college. Although he has some bulking up to do to prepare his body for the pros next year, his basketball smarts, his feel for the game, and his polished moves on the block can definitely help a PBA team today.

You wonder how he scored so much when he rarely touched the ball on the block? Well, he averaged 5.32 offensive boards per game (the most in college) and his ability to finish putbacks on an efficient clip gave San Sebastian a distinct advantage over any team in the NCAA.

This year’s NCAA MVP also has the best hands among college big men. He caught most of the tough passes flung by teammate Calvin Abueva at his direction, and because he positioned himself so well, he finished with ease.

And he did all that despite Abueva dominating their possessions. With Abueva’s departure, we will finally see Sanggalang’s complete arsenal next year.

2. BOBBY RAY PARKS JR., National University
STATS: 20.73 PPG, 7.40 RPG, 4.40 APG, 1.47 SPG, 1.20 BPG, FG% 39.1

Back in Season 74, people criticized Ray Parks for his poor shot selection and his unwillingness to trust his teammates.
In Season 75, he took better shots by letting the game come to him and by learning to be patient on offense. He also learned how to make his teammates better as he showed improvement in finding the open man. Parks also evolved to arguably being a top three defender in the UAAP.

All these, on top of being the MVP he already was, pushed the NU Bulldogs to their first Final Four appearance since 2001. He pulled his team to being a contender once again.

After what people saw from the back-to-back UAAP MVP this year, fans wonder: “Is he PBA-ready after just two seasons in the UAAP?” Clearly, more and more people are beginning to realize that Parks is a grown man amongst boys in the UAAP.

Parks is eligible to join the PBA Draft in 2013 because he is already four years removed from high school. The question is, will he join the draft?

1. CALVIN ABUEVA, San Sebastian College
STATS: 20.26 PPG, 16.47 RPG, 6.21 APG, 1.32 SPG, 1.63 BPG, FG% 34.9

The “Beast of Baste” made history this year: he was the first ever basketball player in any major league in the Philippines to have led a league in points, assists, and rebounds. For how much he produced (not factoring how much he won), he just might be one of the greatest basketball players in college — ever.

He’s not the best ball handler, shooter, or passer in the game. He doesn’t have an elite tangible skill, but no one came remotely close to the out-of-this-planet tenacity and ferocity with which he played the game. His energy was unmatchable.

Standing 6-feet-1, he managed to haul down almost 17 boards a game with insatiable desire and with his uncanny ability to position himself and predict where the ball will be. His relentlessness on the offensive glass gave his team extra possessions and points.

Abueva immensely improved his touch from the perimeter (even extending his range beyond the arc) to the point that defenders couldn’t sag off too far from him. He has evolved into a decent passer as evidenced by the fact that he led the league in helpers.

Quite simply, Abueva was at a level no one else in college basketball was this year. He is the most PBA-ready and he proved it by averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds to help the Alaska Aces get two wins in his first two pro games. He has given Alaska much needed character and energy. –

Robi Raya is a basketball junkie and writes for SLAM Philippines. The opinions on this article are his alone and not shared by Rappler.

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