Coming off a 5-win campaign in UAAP’s Season 79 Basketball Tournament, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons have come across good fortune. It has been confirmed that the former cellar dwellers landed a top prospect in ex-Perpetual Altas standout Bright Akhuetie. When on top form, the 6’8” Cameroonian proved to be a powerhouse in the NCAA. It was only his rocky relationship with the University of Perpetual Help that derailed him from continuing his onslaught in the paint.
Now, he’s on his way to take his towering presence to Diliman, and despite residency rules that would sit Akhuetie out at least for a year, we’re already intrigued with how he might alter the UP basketball landscape. To have an idea what this man-child—tritely nicknamed Mr. Brightside—can do for his new school, here’s a closer look at his impressive skill set and his handiwork with the other teams that he’s played for.
UP: The crowd darling
These days, no basketball fan watches the UAAP games solely because they want to see UP play. The Maroons aren’t exactly a highly entertaining bunch of ballers. But with Bright’s arrival, that could all change. Don’t be surprised if crowds started lining up for UP games to witness showtime basketball, starring Akhuetie and his monster dunks.
The Maroons could become instant favorites if Bright brings these hammers to the UAAP.
The fans will also salivate for a UP-DLSU matchup. Who wouldn’t want to see the two behemoths, Akhuetie and Ben Mbala, collide mid-air? It would be amazing if Mr. Brightside could do this to Big Ben, though.
That is if the league board members won't bring back the seven-year window rule by Season 81 (as reported by SPIN.ph), which could prevent the much-awaited Akhuetie-Mbala showdown from happening.
UP: A terrifying inside force
We believe in the sports axiom: There’s no I in Team. The level of athleticism and the power that Bright brings, however, can make UP a terror in the paint. He can be a one-man wrecking crew for UP who scores around the basket, grabs boards, and protects the rim at an elite level. He doesn’t have the same explosiveness as Ben, but Bright’s own athletic gifts aren’t too far behind from the reigning MVP’s physical prowess. That’s yikes for the other team’s pivots.
Here’s Bright, scoring 18 points and corralling 19 boards for Might Sports in the PCBL.
Expect multiple 20-point, 20-rebound performances from Akhuetie in Season 81.
UP: Finally has a go-to guy
It’s been a long time since UP had a superstar. Someone who the team can just give the ball to during crunch time and confidently know that he’ll deliver. In UP’s newest reinforcement, the Maroons may have finally found their Money Man. Akhuetie loves to barrel his way through the paint to go for a layup or a slam. And it’s extremely difficult to stop him when he gets a full head of steam. It might not be a bad idea for Coach Bo Perasol to draw iso plays or pick-and-rolls for Akhuetie whenever the Maroons needs a crucial basket.
UP: An overhyped team
Worst-case scenario for UP when Bright finally dons a Fighting Maroon jersey is if he never gets along with his coach and teammates. Having no chemistry with your team, no matter how talented you are, will not result in wins. If Bright proves to be a head case, he might end up in the same situation he was in with Perpetual. Knock on wood, UP community.
UP: A Final Four team
Without Akhuetie, UP was able to bag 5 wins last season. With Bright’s help, you can bank on the Maroons improving their record by 2 to 3 more victories. Notching at least 7 Ws is good enough to make a serious run at the Final Four. If everything goes according to plan for Coach Bo and his boys, UP will likely make it to the UAAP’s semifinals for the first time since 1997. Keep in mind, Bright won’t be able to suit up for UP until 2018 but, hey, don’t be too bummed about it. Like, Mbala, Akhuetie might also be worth the wait.