April 25, 2024

GUTS AND GLORY | Should UAAP reserve MVP award for local players only?

GUTS AND GLORY | Should UAAP reserve MVP award for local players only?
Art by Royce Nicdao

For the first time since 2015, a homegrown Filipino will be crowned UAAP’s MVP in men’s basketball as De La Salle Green Archers’ Kevin Quiambao topped the statistical race. He’ll follow Kiefer Ravena who won back-to-back MVP titles in 2014 and 2015.

Foreign student athletes (FSAs) Ben Mbala (twice), Bright Akhuetie, Soulemane Chabi Yo, Ange Kouame, and Malick Diouf were named as the MVPs in the years in between Ravena and Quiambao.

The fact that it took that long for a local MVP once again started the question about the eligibility in winning the prestigious award. 

Should the UAAP keep it open for all players or should it be reserved for locals only?

Here are both sides of the discussion.

Anyone could win as MVP

1. Anyone who plays should be eligible

Keeping it very simple. Since FSAs are allowed to compete, then they should also be able to win awards such as MVP and Rookie of the Year.

2. It will emphasize homegrown winners

Ravena and Quiambao. A UAAP legend and one who’s quickly on his way to becoming one. When the norm is that FSAs win, then the locals who end up sneaking their way in will only be more celebrated. There are no excuses and no doubts. They were the best player of that season. Full stop.

What allowed Ravena and Quiambao to emerge on top was that they had solid assist numbers, which leveled out the playing field for Ravena and really helped Quiambao (see MVP computations later). 

3. There are enough “limitations” for FSAs already

In the UAAP, only one FSA is allowed per team. Moreso, only one FSA is allowed to be in the league’s Mythical Five. Even if the five top finishers in the statistical race are FSAs, there is a mechanism that already allows the UAAP to guarantee a Mythical Five with four Filipino talents.

Only locals could win as MVP

1. The statistical race is still skewed towards bigs

The UAAP already made a big adjustment in this front as it multiplied the value of assists after a Mythical Five that was composed of all bigs. In Season 84, Kouame was joined by Carl Tamayo, Zavier Lucero, Mike Phillips, and Justine Baltazar, and the league properly adjusted to put more weight on assists. Still, it’s easier for a big to rebounds compared to assists for a guard, so even if there’s been a change in the formula, it still favors bigs.

2. Why not have both?

The MVP is a local. But add an award for the Best FSA. 

3. It’s better for the Philippine basketball ecosystem

There will always be an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of having FSAs. The two best-known collegiate leagues in the country have gone in different directions when it comes to this, but what’s certain is that (almost all) FSAs will ultimately leave.

Sure, they will leave with them teammates and opponents who now have the experience in playing alongside or against a dominant big, but their imprint in Philippine basketball usually ends there. Having a naturalized Filipino in Kouame is a rare exception to the norm.

If being a UAAP MVP would help the likes of those who fell a bit short such as Baltazar, Tamayo, Lucero, Jamie Malonzo, Alvin Pasaol, Thirdy Ravena, or even Jeron Teng (yes, the last two do not have season MVPs, only Finals MVPs) in building their names to get a better spot in the PBA Draft or a bigger contract abroad, then the league should help them out.

My take

It might seem obvious by now but I think it’ll just be more helpful if the UAAP had separate awards for FSAs and locals. 

Yes, the lineage will get messy as there’ll no longer be a straight line from inaugural UAAP MVP Rhoel Nadurata to the UAAP and PBA MVPs such as Robert Jaworski, Allan Caidic, Johnny Abarrientos, James Yap, and Arwind Santos. But it’s a minor pain that could lead to long-term positives. 

The UAAP landscape has drastically changed in the past decade. Gone are the days of FSAs such as Kirk Long, Vince Burke, Ferdinand, and Moriah Gingerich who studied here for high school.

It takes serious time, effort, and resources to look for FSAs around the world and, obviously, teams will be looking to maximize what they put in with the quality they’ll get back. This equates to the MVP race being most likely won by an FSA.

And while the best FSA should still be feted, I don’t think it’ll hurt the UAAP if it’s not with the MVP award.