Though the road was shaky, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons have finally made it to the Final Four after 21 years. And they had key transferee Bright Akhuetie leading the charge.
A two-time All-NCAA team member, Akhuetie delivered numbers expected of him, averaging 18.9 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. The 22-year-old Nigerian student-athlete’s production led him to become the first Fighting Maroon since 1987 to win the Most Valuable Player plum.
Not bad right?
But the 6-foot-8 big man is not satisfied with those milestones. He knows that they can make it to the Promised Land.
“We have to practice, put in every detail together and get ready. Because whether we like it or not, we still have to beat Adamson twice to make it there, and after that, we have to talk about Ateneo or FEU. We can’t just be contented with this,” he declared.
“I am not and I don’t want to. I don’t want to put it in my head that this is it. “
With a roster that is as deep as the powerhouses of the league, Akhuetie knows that if they fire on all cylinders, they can be the best.
And who could argue with him?
The Fighting Maroons have an arsenal that includes Paul Desiderio, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Jun Manzo, Jarrell Lim, Gelo Vito, Diego Dario, David Murrell, and Jaydee Tungcab – all of whom can explode at any given moment.
Come Saturday, the SM Mall of Asia Arena will certainly be at a fever pitch as the UP community soaks in this moment. But it will be up to the Fighting Maroons if they sink or swim.
“Why can’t we beat Adamson and make it to the Finals? Why can’t we win the championship? Being in the Final Four is a step for us to get there. Winning the MVP, I thank God for that. But I want more, I really want more,” he said.
“With these group of guys, I know we could do it, but they have to know that we could do it.”