MANILA, Philippines – In less than a week’s time, the country’s biggest arenas will once again be home to a particular brand of noise.
The sound of drums will rattle the floors while the cheers—and jeers—of thousands will drown out anything even remotely audible. Chaotic as it may seem, even the most casual of fans wouldn’t want it any other way.
Nothing grabs the Filipino sports junkie quite like the UAAP does, and just before the season kicks off, Rappler gives you a rundown of athletes sure to deliver.
Keep an eye on them; blink, and you might miss something spectacular.
Ryan Buenafe (Men’s Basketball, Ateneo de Manila University)
Dogged by numerous rumors and an aura of mystery, Buenafe’s return is the hoops equivalent of a telenovela plot twist. Will he come through? Is he still the crafty game-closer Ateneans have grown to love? A quick look at his preseason stats and you’ll find yourself a tad bit disappointed: Save for a few shows of brilliance, he was a virtual non-factor on the floor.
Nevertheless, this former Rookie of the Year is made for the big stage, and there is no stage bigger in collegiate sports than the UAAP. Look for him to pick up where he left off some two years back.
Emmanuel Mbe (Men’s Basketball, National University)
A year off the hardwood and you’d think Emmanuel Mbe would show signs of rust and confusion. You might also think that coming back to a team with a new star would mess with his psyche. Truth is, you’d think wrong.
Quicker, leaner, and stronger than ever, Mbe gives the Bulldogs a much needed second option to league MVP Parks’ dynamic play. A star in his own right, the Cameroonian big man is a walking double-double capable of banging down low with the best of them.
LA Revilla (Men’s Basketball, De La Salle University)
Much attention has been given prized rookie Jeron Teng, who will surely create fireworks. But don’t let Teng’s arrival overshadow Green Archers guard LA Revilla.
The post-Franz Pumaren Archers have this tendency to dig themselves huge holes, suddenly facing deficits difficult to conquer. Unsettling? Yes. But with Revilla on the floor, the Green and White faithful can rest easy and know that their squad still has a fighting chance.
Often the smallest man on the court, Revilla is imbued with a tenacity unlike any other. With him at the helm, no lead is safe. A step-back three from nowhere and the sort of pesky defense that drives ball handlers crazy—that’s what you can expect from La Salle’s deadly Energizer Bunny.
Shaneen Sia (Women’s Taekwondo, University of Santo Tomas)
Though the UAAP scene is dominated by the burly men of the basketball court, the art of kicking butt is by no means a monopoly. Should you need proof, look no further than UST’s Shaneen Sia. A taekwondo prodigy if there ever was one, this dynamite of a jin has the laurels to back it all up.
With a SEA Games gold and silver, coupled with an ASEAN Taekwondo Championship title in her corner, Shaneen is poised to stand atop the mountain of collegiate martial arts.
Fille Cainglet (Women’s Beach Volleyball, Ateneo de Manila University)
Few athletes surpass the confines of their sport. Fewer still have ravenous followings on social networking sites and internet forums. Then again, few athletes are like the captivating Fille Cainglet. Having made a name for herself in indoor volleyball play, this super senior was a vital cog in Ateneo’s second-place run during last season’s beach volley competitions.
Two runner-up finishes aren’t bad, but this year, Fille is determined to turn those silvers into golds. As you watch her spike ball after ball into the sand, try not to be too beguiled by her ferocious beauty.
Joper Escueta (Men’s Badminton, National University)
In recent times, Philippine badminton has been dominated by Ateneo’s Toby Gadi. So masterful is his display of skill that no one has come close to beating him—not in UAAP play, nor in national competition. No one, that is, except for NU’s Joper Escueta.
Last year’s Men’s Badminton final featured the best matchup in decades: Gadi as the king of the hill and Escueta as the usurper. For the first time ever, Gadi dropped a set. It was unthinkable, almost blasphemous. For the first time ever, something impossible no longer was. Although Escueta eventually lost the match, this season, the NU captain is back and ready to topple even greater giants.
Denjylie Cordero (Women’s Swimming, University of the Philippines)
Not so long ago, Jiji Cordero was Ateneo’s prized tanker, winning gold medals left and right for the Blue and White. Should everything fall into place, this time, the former Rookie of the Year and league MVP will suit up for State U.
It is a story rife with drama and tense undertones. Cordero is—and pardon the frankness—the most dominant amateur female swimmer in recent memory. With her on the squad, the Lady Maroons are all but secured to extend their three-peat. Watch her in the pool and you’ll understand perfectly just how easily she can lay waste to the competition.
Johansen Aguilar (Men’s Swimming, De La Salle University)
Seven golds in seven events. Philippine and UAAP records to his name. Rookie of the Year and MVP honors. The Season 75 Athlete of the Year award. Above all, a chance to represent the country at the SEA Games.
Search far and wide, and you’ll be hard-pressed to chance upon an athletic resumé like this. A backstroke specialist of the highest caliber, Johansen Aguilar is collegiate swimming’s golden boy. – Rappler.com
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- UAAP men’s basketball coaches: ADMU, NU the teams to beat
- #TalkThursday: Chatting sports with Norman Black
- The Philippine collegiate rivalry: NCAA vs UAAP
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