MANILA, Philippines – Following days of speculation, Evan Nelle confirmed to Rappler on Tuesday, January 21, that he will transfer to De La Salle University and play in the UAAP after spending the first two years of his collegiate career with San Beda University in the NCAA.
The 5-foot-10 playmaker will undergo a season of residency before wearing green and white beginning in UAAP Season 84 come 2021.
“I just want to spread my wings, try [out] the UAAP, and win for La Salle,” said Nelle, who was named to the Mythical 5 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2019, in explaning his transfer.
A blue-chip recruit out of San Beda’s high school program, Nelle won an NCAA title in his rookie season with the Red Lions and was instrumental in leading San Beda to a perfect elimination round showing as a sophomore.
With averages of 10 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and nearly 7 assists a game, Nelle established himself as a premier point guard in college hoops who is effective on both sides of the floor. Nelle also had a 14-assist outing during a 74-52 victory over Jose Rizal University, and wound up second in the MVP race behind his teammate, Calvin Oftana.
Bringing his sweet shooting stroke with him, Nelle will now move to Taft Avenue, where he will participate in his first practice under new La Salle head coach Derrick Pumaren on Tuesday.
For Nelle, a former player of De La Salle Zobel, his decision to transfer is also a homecoming.
“I was a Lasallian from Senior Prep to Grade 7, so it was a big factor,” he said. “I love the school din. I love La Salle. That never changed.”
Rumors have circulated that the close relationship of Nelle’s family to Pumaren factored in his decision to leave the Red Lions, but the incoming third-year student-athlete insisted it wasn’t. Nelle also added that the decision to leave San Beda, a place he also called home, was difficult, and brought him to tears.
“It was so hard. Ang hirap magdecide. Ang hirap iwanan ‘yung mahal mo, ‘di ba (It was hard to decide. It’s hard to leave someone you love, right)? So every night, I had to think about it,” he said over the phone.
“I have built relationships with everyone, from coaches, to players, to ball boys, to people around our team. That was one of my hardest decisions in life talaga (really), to leave people I love.”
Contrary to reports, Nelle claimed he did not go “AWOL” but rather used time away from practice to carefully weigh his decision. On Tuesday morning, he informed San Beda of his choice to move.
Nelle’s arrival comes at a good time for the Green Archers’ program, which lost former NCAA juniors MVP Joel Cagulangan after he opted to transfer from La Salle to University of the Philippines. When he turns eligible, Nelle will be the successor to current La Salle starting point guard Aljun Melecio, who will play his final year of eligibility in UAAP Season 83.
According to Nelle, Melecio is like a “brother” to him, with both young standouts having a “really close” relationship. The duo constantly communicates, and share the same skills coach. Furthermore, Nelle also has a good relationship with Andrei Caracut, DLSU’s team captain who graduated after UAAP Season 82.
“For this residency year, I’m going to work on my skills,” Nelle promised. “Papalaki ako ng katawan (I’ll bulk up). I’ll be under Coach Derrick naman. I’ll see his system. I’ll observe and watch their games. It’s good preparation. I’ll [also] be under Aljun naman, so he’s going to guide me.”
As for dealing with the consequences of his decision, Nelle said he planned not to concentrate too much on the expectations of others, and instead focus on doing what Pumaren and the Green Archers would require of him.
“I just want to win. That’s my only expectation. I want to bring a winning culture to wherever I go, and we’ll be under Manong naman. He’s a really good coach,” he said. – Rappler.com
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