Chance to cement a legacy brought Akhuetie to UP, says Perasol
MANILA, Philippines – What was arguably the biggest move of the UAAP basketball offseason was made official this week when UP Maroons head coach Bo Perasol confirmed that Bright Akhuetie, previously an import for the UPHSD Altas in the NCAA, decided to transfer to the University of the Philippines.
Akhuetie was an MVP candidate every season he played in the NCAA, which included high-scoring games that helped make the Altas a contender in the collegiate basketball league. The 6-foot-7 Nigerian was also recruited by other UAAP schools, notably powerhouse programs La Salle and Ateneo, but decided to move to UP.
"The biggest impact there is the idea and thought that the program is going somewhere," Perasol told Rappler about the impact of Akhuetie's decision.
"More than the personnel, it's the thought that people are making ways for the UP program to be better. That's what's important there."
Akhuetie will have to sit out a season of residency due to his transfer. Perasol, who will be UP's head coach for the second season this year, says the import will have two playing years of eligibility as a Fighting Maroon beginning in 2018.
"On the court, Bright can give confidence more than numbers, the confidence he can give his teammates," said Perasol, who led UP to its best campaign in 11 years in Season 79, where the Maroons went 5-9.
"He can provide a presence in the paint, because we don't have much points in the shaded area. Defensively, we now have a rim protector. With him, we can be a better defensive team.
"It's more than that. It's the excitement he brings to his teammates, to the team, and to the community most importantly."
Perasol believes that Akhuetie's decision to choose UP had a lot to do with the amount of work he has to put in as opposed to what he would have had to do by going to DLSU or ADMU.
"I think he was really challenged with the fact that if he goes to UP, he will have to work. He will have to work to make his presence have an impact," said Perasol, who used to coach the Blue Eagles.
"If he goes to those powerhouse programs, he'll just be one of those names. If he goes to La Salle, I guess he thinks he's just going to be part of a championship team."
A high-profile recruit selecting UP over La Salle and Ateneo isn't impossible, but surprising given the benefits provided with becoming a Green Archer or Blue Eagle. However, Perasol thinks Akhuetie choosing UP is a new type of challenge that can lead to a legacy.
"With UP, it's going to be something really new. If he's going to bring us there (finals), if he's going to help us, he's going to cement his legacy here at UP," said the head coach.
"It's a big thing if in the next few years, we will experience the opportunity to play in the finals."
Perasol sees becoming a title contender with Akhuetie in the fold as the goal for the program, but the head coach is also aware his team needs to start building winning tendencies. More recruitment must also be done.
"I would hope so, because that's the intention. Winning should become a habit. It just doesn't happen. We have to start this coming season. It's not only him. We have to also add some more personnel to our program. We have to look for better personnel for the team." – Rappler.com