It’s all systems go for Francis Lopez to play for the University of the Philippines in the upcoming UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
UP the Office for Athletics and Sports Development director Bo Perasol shared this development during the UAAP Collegiate Basketball Press Conference held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.
“Yeah, well, first and foremost, I’m just really happy for Francis, you know? I really think that he deserves to play in this country,” said Perasol.
“I think it will be Executive Director Rebo [Saguisag] who will explain how we came up with that, but there was a unanimous decision about his playing year,” he added.
Lopez committed to Diliman last January, but there were questions regarding whether he will be eligibile or not as he had already signed a deal with Overtime Elite in the United States. The 20-year-old highflyer was able to receive a portion of his $100,000 deal with OTE.
Things, however, failed to materialize as Lopez could not secure a US Visa, ultimately ending his overseas dreams before they even started. It was also deemed that the money he got was an Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal.
After his botched attempt to showcase his skills overseas, the 20-year-old highflyer had a few stints with Gilas Pilipinas before eventually practicing with the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.
Lopez then had a change of heart, making the switch to UP and joining the team in numerous pre-season tournaments ahead of Season 86.
“It’s all about giving him a chance to play. He’s young, he’s talented, so he needs to showcase whatever he has,” said Perasol.
The 31st Southeast Asian Games silver medalist will join a Fighting Maroons squad that was coming off a silver medal finish in Season 85, where they lost to Ateneo in the finals.
Lopez is set to make his UP debut on Sunday against Adamson University at 4:00 p.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.