And here I am, thinking that NCAA players are immune from the East Asian flight.
So NCAA rookie MVP Rhenz Abando has decided to take his talents to the Korean Basketball League. Anyang KGC lucked out in his services and it looks like the PBA will lose another top star.
I guess we ignored a lot of signs. For starters, most Gilas Pilipinas recruits came from the UAAP so when Abando and in some ways, Allen Liwag were selected, we should have at least seen the red flag.
And yeah, Liwag is probably going to go overseas in the near future... or probably going to play for Ateneo next season.
I am calling this now.
Also, NCAA Season 98 is going ahead earlier than expected. Abando wasted two years because of the pandemic and at 24, he needs to strike whilst the iron is hot. Not only is Abando part of the Letran Knights, as mentioned, but he is also the rookie MVP. There was talk that Abando is set to join the 2022 PBA Draft where he's probably going to end as a Top 5 pick.
I guess we really have reached the era of college graduates taking a backseat to the one-and-done players and I am okay with this. If the player has the potential to hit it big the way Kai Sotto did before he reaches 20 years old, then we need to capitalize on that opportunity.
The Knights might have been undefeated in Season 97 but the three-peat is going to be hard considering that Jeo Ambohot, Allen Mina, and Christian Fajarito have graduated. Former UST bosom buddy Brent Paraiso will have an expanded role in Season 98, Fran Yu and Tommy Olivario are expected to finish college with a bang, and Mark Louie Sangalang and Pao Javillonar have to level up their games.
This is still a big-time squad even without Abando.
Finally, Abando's play style made him a great player to have at all levels of basketball. Abando comes off the bench to provide instant offense on all sides of the court. He's not afraid to posterize giants and can pull up for a jump shot with relative ease. He is also a great defensive specialist. His playing style is so defined, that Anyang will probably use him as their first guy off the bench to provide a Mark Caguioa-like spark as the team rests their starters.
Selfishly, and somewhat stating the obvious, Abando picked the wrong time to leave the NCAA.
I know the money might be too big for him to refuse.
Also, the competition may be vital for his growth.
But Abando is basically the first real superstar of the GMA-backed NCAA coverage. He can just delay his Korean trip for one year to just become a superstar the way the UAAP developed the likes of Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng. Thing is, the Ravena and Teng rivalry back then can be compared to Abando and San Beda's James Kwekuteye. The Red Lion could have also applied in the 2022 PBA Draft but he stayed because, unlike Ambohot, Justin Arana, Mina, and JM Calma, the new backer can turn him into a better name.
Again, Paraiso, Yu, and his other Letran teammates will have better roles for their title retention campaign. At the same time, Kwekuteye and his Red Lions, the Mapua triumvirate of Warren Bonifacio, Rence Nocum, and Pao Hernandez, and I guess, the CSB Blazers and the Perpetual Altas are expected to challenge their dominance.
The UAAP might have dominated the 2022 PBA Draft's first round, 7 to 3, but the 2023 PBA Draft (or the Season 48 Draft) could take a turn for the NCAA bets. UAAP is at the moment handicapped because their local big men are taking a backseat to the foreign exchange students but the guards are good as well.
With Abando going to Korea, this could signal the fact that he is an important asset in Gilas Pilipinas' FIBA World Cup campaign. Most of the Filipinos in Korea are part of the Gilas campaign with Will Navarro a name worth noting since he is one of the Gilas cadets that was drafted by a PBA team.
Again, Abando's game is instant offense.
Whether it's money or mainly, to have a better hold of international competition, the K-basketball contract is the perfect way to cap off Rhenz Abando's awesome NCAA Season 97.