Five games into UAAP Season 81, Bright Akhuetie still isn’t the force of nature he wants to be.
But that can only mean that a brighter campaign is in store for the Fighting Maroons this year.
The Nigerian reinforcement came up big for UP again as he posted 19 points, 19 rebounds, three assists and a steal in the team’s 67-61 win over De La Salle on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
This effectively snapped a three-game losing skid which, as Akhuetie admitted, may have dealt a dent to the team’s morale.
“It was really really bad. It was so messed up. We go to practice, we see everybody moody and stuff and we had to talk to ourselves. We can’t just lose like that, so we talked to oursleves, we are all tired of losing so we had to come back,” Akhuetie said.
A loss that hurt in particular was their recent one against Adamson last Wednesday, where the Fighting Maroons erected a lead as big as 12 midway through the third quarter before losing at the last second to a late Sean Manganti bucket.
“I kinda feel like it’s the pressure and sometimes we got to excited, like ‘oh yeah we are doing it, grrr’ and then we lose focus on what is happening on the floor. But we are working on it,” the big man explained.
Today’s win was indeed a step forward as they managed to hold their composure in the midst of a late Green Archers fightback.
And as the UP improves, so will Akhuetie. When asked whether or not he’s already at 100 percent, he bared that he has yet to get to that point.
“I’m enjoying my stay in UP, it’s really good. I’m getting back on track gradually and hopefully before the end of this first round, I’ll be at 95 percent,” a grinning Akhuetie told media after the game.
“I’m up to 80, somewhere there.”
An in-form Akhuetie is certainly up there as one of the most dominant collegiate players, and his play so far is an indication of how brilliant he could be once he reaches his ceiling. He’s averaging 4.0 assists per game before today’s game, and that figure already ranks second in the league.
“Like I’ve said before and I’ll keep saying it, I’m now on a team where everybody can really play. Me staying in the post [will] attract the defense so my teammates will definitely be open. If I force it, I might score and miss so the easiest way [is] to look out for these guys who are open and then they will make the basket,” said Akhuetie.