Arvin Tolentino is probably the most controversial student-athlete today in the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Fresh from his one-game suspension which forced him to miss the Far Eastern University Tamaraws’ victory against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, the Angono, Rizal native found himself ejected for the second straight game when he hit the University of Santo Tomas’ Zach Huang on the head with 15.9 seconds left in the contest.
“Parang ayoko na ring magsalita pero feeling ko lang parang unfair naman. Yung iba naman tinatawagan ng unsportsmanlike foul pero bakit ako disqualified agad? So, yun lang yung tinatanong ko kanina pa,” pondered the second-year Tamaraw.
“Unsporstmanlike, oo, pero bakit disqualified agad? Inaamin ko naman na unsportsmanlike talaga – above the shoulder yung tama – pero ‘di ba, bakit ako, tapon agad.”
It capped off a disappointing afternoon for Tolentino, as he and the rest of the Tamaraws were defeated once again this season by the Growling Tigers, while his double-double performance of 11 points and 11 rebounds was dampened because of his ejection.
Tolentino confessed that he feels hard done by the officials. The former San Beda Red Cub feels that calls aren’t consistent and pointed towards FEU’s previous game against Ateneo, where Thirdy Ravena’s was called for an unsportsmanlike foul at the 3:04 mark of the final frame but was not ejected.
“Ayokong magmukhang ako yung kawawa, pero yun lang yung tanong ko.
“Other players get unsportsmanlike foul, they sit three minutes. Ako, unsportsmanlike foul, thrown out. Question ko lang. I’m not against the rules. I’m not against the UAAP,” opined the 22-year-old.
Two consecutive ejections, though, will surely sway majority of public opinion against Tolentino. The former Ateneo Blue Eagle knows that people will inevitably judge him, but he still asked for understanding.
“For sure, for sure, may masasabi, especially the people who watch the game only. Yung mga hindi naglalaro, siyempre ‘di naman nila maiintindihan. That’s fine,” said the Season 77 Rookie of the Year.
“Part of basketball, lalo na yung mga die-hard fans, siyempre they’re gonna hate you. I fully understand that.”
Overall, the latest incident was Tolentino’s third ejection in his collegiate career. The 23 for 2023 pool member was ejected against Adamson University in Season 80 and in his last game against the Soaring Falcons a few weeks ago.
“Sana lang ‘di nila i-base yung nangyari na yun sa pagkatao ng isang player.
“‘Di lang naman sakin eh. Maraming basketball players ang nakakakuha ng ganung reputasyon mapa-NBA, PBA, amateur. Sana lang, outside basketball, iba na yung tao na yun. After nun, ‘di mo naman pwedeng i-judge yung tao based dun sa nangyari. May mga bagay naman na ‘di maiiwasan, ‘di sinasadya,” reasoned Tolentino.
Ultimately, the Tamaraw knows that the circumstances are stacked against him, and he is ready to accept another suspension for his actions. While he hoped for a miracle that leads to a kinder punishment, he understood that any sort of protest will fall on deaf ears.
“I just wanna apologize to the UST fans, to Zach Huang. Wala naman akong intensyon na saktan siya,” he implored.
“Nakita naman kanina. I was going for the ball tapos medyo bumaba siya. I’m six-foot-5, so mataas yung reach ko. But I’m not giving excuses.”