A new season heralds fresh starts.
Additionally, it meant fresh opportunities for players to stand out from their various teams, all of whom are eager to succeed in the 85th UAAP Season.
MCW is here to announce our picks for the eight players we think fans should pay close attention to, finally with a preseason to boot.
RC Calimag – UP
The second-generation star, who was very sparingly utilized in his debut season, is eager to establish his legitimacy among the talented University of the Philippines team.
The 6-foot-5 Calimag, who shot 35% from long range and had flashes of his brilliance from his La Salle Greenhills days, emerged as one of the finest shooters for the Fighting Maroons in the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup.
His versatility should strengthen UP’s wing rotation as it attempts to win back-to-back championships this year.
Kai Ballungay – Ateneo
Ballungay did not waste any time in establishing himself as Ateneo’s new sheriff.
The Fil-Am forward was outstanding in the Blue Eagles’ international excursions, earning MVP honors in Japan’s World University Basketball Series.
The 6-foot-6 Ballungay, who has been highly anticipated since the moment he committed to Katipunan, is aware that huge things are expected of him this season because he will undoubtedly be one of Ateneo’s key weapons.
CJ Austria – La Salle
Austria is the type of player who will let his play do the talking for him. He is quiet yet deadly on the floor.
This was demonstrated by the sophomore guard during La Salle’s title run in the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup, where he grasped the moment and scored 12.3 points on a 51% shooting clip, in addition to 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 steals.
Austria will likely play more minutes for the Green Archers this season, which will serve as another evidence of the depth of the Taft backcourt.
Chiolo Anonuevo – FEU
Anonuevo, who played in just one game for Far Eastern University last year due to a foot ailment, is undoubtedly seeking redemption this year. The 6-foot-4 forward has long been anticipated to play a significant role in the Tamaraws’ future, but in order to validate those predictions, he must now demonstrate his current abilities.
Let’s hope he can stay well so he can eventually share what he discovered during his pandemic excursion in the United States.
AP Manlapaz – Adamson
Manlapaz is certainly making up for lost time as he rejoins the Adamson camp after a knee injury sidelined him last season.
At the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup, where he averaged 9.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.0 assist, the 6-foot-4 forward quickly got back to work.
However, the Soaring Falcons anticipate more from Manlapaz, and if he can get back to his previous form, do not be surprised if the San Marcelino team makes another run at the Final Four.
Omar John – NU
All eyes may be on players like Ange Kouame, Malick Diouf, or even Bright Nwankwo, but Omar John of National University thinks he can compete with, if not surpass, their accomplishments.
The 6-foot-10 Senegalese showed flashes of his strength in the paint during the Bulldogs’ title run in the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup, averaging 7.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks while playing with spirit every time.
This season, John will undoubtedly pose a challenge for the opposing frontcourts.
Nic Cabañero – UST
In just his second year, Cabaero will be suddenly catapulted into the leadership role for University of Santo Tomas, bearing all the dreams of Espana.
The diligent 6-foot-2 forward, who had a strong rookie season, continued in the same vein in the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup, scoring 14.9 points on 43 percent shooting, adding 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and a steal.
With the dramatic changes on the team, it is now clear that Cabanero will be leading the Growling Tigers, since he had anticipated a larger role this season.
CJ Payawal – UE
Payawal was a true asset to University of the East throughout the offseason, as he showed off his strong two-way game in the team’s preseason competitions.
The 6-foot-5 Fil-American winger made a strong first impression at the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup, scoring 11.0 points on 33 percent of his long-range shots and adding 3.5 rebounds.
He is just one of the Red Warriors’ many new weapons this season, giving them a draw that should be avoided by the opponent.