With the extent of scouting today, most young players are already recruited and nurtured by the most prestigious basketball programs at such an early age. A lot of the UAAP players today were once highly-touted prospects who have been trained by these programs.
However, there will always be players who slip through the cracks of the system and go unnoticed until someone decides to take a chance on them. And when these players eventually shine, they make their scouts and coaches look like geniuses.
Here are four notable players that most people didn’t foresee succeeding the way that they have in UAAP Season 81.
Alvin Pasaol, UE Red Warriors
The best way to start this list is with the best example. The UE Red Warriors are currently languishing at the bottom of the team standings, but they have still become a must-watch team almost solely because of Pasaol.
The 6’3 Pasaol was never supposed to be this good. He was supposedly too burly, too short, and too predictable to be an effective power forward in the UAAP. But here he is, leading the league in scoring with 24.7 points per game while also averaging 11.1 rebounds (fourth) and 1.6 steals (second) per game. When teams play UE, they know that their main job is to lock down the Davao native. Yet somehow, some way, Pasaol still manages to get his numbers.
While his performances have not really translated into wins for the Red Warriors, fixating on the outcome will deprive you of the pure, unadulterated fun that the Alvin Pasaol Experience brings.
Zach Huang, UST Growling Tigers
After three nondescript years with the UST Growling Tigers, Zach Huang seemed all but set to simply play out his UAAP eligibility in a forgettable college career. He was a big body, yes, but it seemed like he was never going to be anything more than just that. But under new coach Aldin Ayo, the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu high school product has finally found his niche as a starter and glue guy for a young and hungry UST squad.
This season, Huang is averaging a solid line of 9.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 22.1 minutes per game while also providing the strength and toughness that a lot of the young guns still need to develop.
His season is highlighted by a career-best 20-point outing against a strong FEU team which gave the Growling Tigers their third straight win at that point of the season.
Jerick Ahanmisi, Adamson Soaring Falcons
It may be hard to believe right now, but there was a time when Jerick Ahanmisi was deemed not good enough to make it to the UAAP. The third-year Adamson guard, who is widely considered to be one of the best shooters in college basketball today, initially tried out for Ateneo, La Salle, and NU prior to Season 79 but didn’t make the cut for any of them. Fortunately for the Fil-Am guard, Adamson coach Franz Pumaren was more than willing to give him a chance to prove himself as a member of the Soaring Falcons.
Fast forward to Season 81, and Ahanmisi is averaging 18.2 points (second), 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game. He is also hitting 3.1 three-pointers (second) per game with a 40.6 percent accuracy (third).
Beyond the amazing shooting, the 6’1 guard has also expanded his scoring repertoire as well as improved upon his ball-handling to make him an even tougher cover for opponents.
Anton Asistio, Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles
Known as one of the deadliest snipers in the UAAP today, it is easy to forget that Anton Asistio’s UAAP career was almost prematurely cut when he was relegated to Ateneo’s Team B for Season 78 after two unremarkable years with the main squad. The 5’10 guard was generally viewed as too small, too unathletic, and too much of a defensive liability to make his mark as an effective shooting guard in the UAAP. And had it not been for the (un)fortunate exodus of seven key rotation players for the Blue Eagles prior to Season 79 due to academic reasons, Asistio probably won’t be where he is today – the starting shooting guard and a key player for the defending champions.
The only graduating player for the Blue Eagles this season is averaging 9.1 points per game while shooting an unbelievable and league-leading 51.1 percent from downtown (2.3 per game). The former Ateneo de Manila High School standout has worked tremendously on his body and on his defense standout to earn his playing time while also knowing his role and limitations in head coach Tab Baldwin’s system.