MANILA, Philippines – UST rising star Nic Cabañero had the game of his young life after he torched the Adamson Soaring Falcons for 33 points in the Growling Tigers’ 69-60 stunner win to kick off the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday, October 1.
The sophomore sensation completely carried his team’s offense as the only double-digit scorer and converted 13-of-18 shots on the way to obliterating his previous career-best mark of 20 points.
Cabañero said after the game that he was understandably overwhelmed with the surprising turn of events for him and his team, and dedicated the season debut win to first-year head coach Bal David, a former Growling Tiger standout himself.
“I keep on praying for this. I’m turning 19 this Monday, and I just kept on praying that the first win be given to us,” he said in Filipino. “Not just the first game, but the upcoming ones as well, since these will dictate our flow in the future. This is where we’ll get our confidence.”
“I’m so thankful to coach Bal, to the other coaches, because their trust in me is huge. They’re helping me mature as a player.”
After emerging as UST’s second option last season, Cabañero is now forced to be the unquestioned go-to guy this time around after the Growling Tigers suffered a massive loss of talent in the form of NU-bound rookie revelation Kean Baclaan, and overaged veterans Sherwin Concepcion and Bryan Santos.
Even though he has only been around with the team for a short while, David already knows there is no one other than Cabañero more suited to take the lead as UST continues its rebuild this season and relive lost glory in the process.
“Actually, no one here doesn’t trust Nic’s skills. I’m sure all of the coaches – given Nic’s talent – will give him opportunities to grow,” he said in Filipino. “Especially now that we lost our core of Brian and Sherwin, Nic was there to step up.”
“Those whom we lost, those are our inspirations. I told them to dedicate this game to those who are not here. I guess that’s why they strived harder. They worked harder in practice, and even more in the game.”
Cabañero and the rest of the Growling Tigers will be tasked to relive the magic all over again as they next face an irate La Salle side coming off a tough UP loss on Wednesday, October 5, 4:30 pm. – Rappler.com