MANILA, Philippines – The Adamson Soaring Falcons had undoubtedly the best recruiting drive of the UAAP Season 82 off-season, nabbing recruits like former NCAA juniors Mythical Five Aaron Fermin, UAAP juniors Mythical Team member Joem Sabandal and Enderun veteran star Val Chauca, among others.
Sitting just outside the spotlight of that class, however, is former Baby Falcons stalwart AP Manlapaz, who helped Sabandal tow Adamson to the Season 81 juniors Final Four.
No one, not even Manlapaz himself, thought that 10 games into the season, he would be the first one to break out and carve his own place in Franz Pumaren’s rotation.
To repay that trust, the 6-foot-2 forward erupted for a career-high 14 points in just 14 minutes in the Falcons’ 72-53 clinical win over the NU Bulldogs.
“Hindi naman [expected],” Manlapaz said after the game when asked about his breakout streak. “Parang inisip ko lang talaga na pagdating ng season, gusto ko lang makatulong kahit sa small things lang, makatulong man lang ako sa effort. Gusto ko lang bigyan ng effort ‘yung laro ko.”
(I didn’t expect it. I just thought that when the season comes, I just want to help even with small things, just to help out in effort. I just want to give effort in my game.)
Although Manlapaz prefers to do the small things as he said, it was a big moment that helped him burst into the scene back in 2017.
Facing Kai Sotto, then just 14-years-old, in the Pilipinas Chinese Amateur Basketball League as a Baby Falcons rookie, Manlapaz did the unthinkable and served up a poster dunk on the 7-foot-1 unicorn, sending the internet into an expected frenzy.
“Kasi doon sa larong ‘yun, ‘di ko na alam gagawin ko pagpasa ni Joem sa akin,” he recalled. “Puro naba-block lahat ng duma-drive sa harap [ni Kai.] Tapos ‘yun, pagbigay ni Joem sakin, ‘di ko alam, basta tumalon na lang ako tapos na-dunk ko.”
(In that game, I was running out of things to try when Joem passed me the ball. Kai blocked everyone who drove in front of him. Then when Joem gave me the ball again, I didn’t think. I just jumped and dunked.)
Two years later, Manlapaz now earns big minutes as Adamson goes for a near-perfect push to stay in playoff contention.
Although Pumaren jokingly named Manlapaz as an attorney because he apparently makes too many excuses, that served as a wake-up call for the 18-year-old to take his role more seriously moving forward.
“Parang ngayon, gusto talaga naming talunin lahat sa coming games namin,” he said. “Sa ngayon, may 4 games pa kami pero kukunin namin ‘yun one game at a time kasi ngayon tagilid pa kami sa standings. Kaya gusto talaga namin maglaro talaga.”
(Right now, we really want to beat everyone in our coming games. We still have 4 games but we’ll take it one game at a time because right now, we’re still in a bad spot in the standings. That’s why we really want to play.)
Manlapaz now has a golden opportunity to prove he’s more than just a freak athlete as the Falcons face the UP Fighting Maroons on Sunday, October 20. – Rappler.com