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With all his heart, Karim Abdul always gave UST a chance



He doesn’t have to be reminded that winners get all the glory.

As the Mall of Asia Arena lights dimmed after the epic UAAP Finals Game Three clash between Abdul’s University of Santo Tomas Tigers and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, the player emerged from the UST locker room walking hand-in-hand with his young son. When a pair of reporters stopped the 6’6” Cameroonian for an interview, Abdul was understandably hesistant.

UST had just lost another title series in devastating fashion. Game Three was also Abdul’s final match in the UAAP.

“I feel numb,” Abdul said, while blankly staring into the empty bleachers where arena custodians were picking up deflated gold balloons that thousands of Thomasians had waved during the game.

“I don’t know what happened really. I think God wanted FEU to win,” he replied when asked what he thought had happened during the closing moments of the match.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times With all his heart, Karim Abdul always gave UST a chance    UST had held a steady six-point lead with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. FEU then made all the big plays down the stretch, choking the UST offense and hitting clutch buckets and free throws to ice the game. At one point, the Tigers had a chance to tie the game. Trailing by two with less than 23 seconds left in the game and 2.1 ticks on the shot clock, the Tigers inbounded the ball to Abdul on baseline. Abdul then turned to the baseline breaking away from an incoming double team.

But the referee blew his whistle. Abdul had stepped out of bounds.

With how those final moments transpired, it’s easy to forget how Abdul had helped the Tigers early in the game. In the first quarter, The Cameroonian gamely took and made the midrange jumpers the FEU defense dared him to take. The Tams then adjusted, pressuring Karim and sending help every time the big man drove to the basket. UST found momentary success with a small ball lineup at the tail end of the third quarter while Abdul was on the bench, but UST’s quick swingmen gassed out down the stretch and FEU bullied the smaller Tigers in their game-clinching run. They needed Abdul. Abdul gave UST everything he had one last time but they ultimately fell short. Abdul finished with 12 points and five boards.

Physically and emotionally drained, it was hard for Abdul to reflect on the legacy he left for the fans.

“They don’t really care if you have Finals appearances. They won’t remember you. It’s only when you win, right?,” Abdul said shifting his gaze straight into the eyes of one reporter. “At this point everyone wants to win. Now, there’s always going to be that side that’s sour.”

But really, Abdul was undeniably one of the best big men to dawn UST’s black, gold, and white.

UST’s first African big man, Abdul has brought his school to heights that were otherwise too lofty without him. His rookie season, Season 74, was a transition year for the España-based cagers, with the heroes of their 2006 championship team gone and a batch of promising recruits coming in. Nevertheless, Abdul pulled the Tigers to a Final Four appearance, averaging a beastly 12 points and 11 rebounds a game. During UST’s last elimination round games that season, Abdul barely took a break on the bench. Images of then-head coach Pido Jarencio and the rest of the Tigers of the bench fanning Abdul every timeout and dead ball situation with towels to keep the big man fresh depicted how much he meant to that upstart squad.Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times With all his heart, Karim Abdul always gave UST a chance

The next two seasons, Abdul further imposed his dominance, averaging nearly 16 points and 14 rebounds a game and leading UST go back-to-back Finals appearances, falling short against a taller Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles team in Season 75 and failing to close out the De La Salle University Archers in Season 76. In both seasons, Abdul was in the top three in the MVP race (Had he not been thrown out of a game in Season 75, he would have won the MVP).

Injury-riddled and leaderless, UST had a forgettable Season 77. At the start of Season 78, the Cameroonian struggled to get into shape after surgeries to repair his knee. That’s when his batchmates Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquiaog blossomed into the prized PBA prospects they are now. The squad pundits predicted which teams would struggle and miss the Final Four one by one. With Ferrer and Daquiaog taking the wheel, Abdul comfortably enjoyed his view from the back seat, providing his team with a steady presence down low.

So, really, how many guys can say that they led their team to Final Four appearances in four of their five years in the UAAP? When UST’s most fondly-remembered stars – Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquiaog, Jeric Teng – were still maturing and finding their game, Abdul always found a way to get UST to the playoffs.

Perhaps his wounds were still fresh and his heart hadn’t recovered enough for Karim to remember how much he has meant to UST over the past few years. Perhaps when his kid grows up and asks for his stories from his career, he’ll fondly recall the time they systematically crushed the top seeded NU Bulldogs in the Season 76 Final Four when no one expected them to make the playoffs. Or the time he blocked LA Revilla’s potential game-winning layup to give UST Game One of the Finals of the same season. Or the time in the second round of Season 78 when people were talking about him being a shell of himself – that he didn’t have it anymore – but then he nearly broke his scoring career-high against the NU Bulldogs right in the grill of the monstrous Alfred Aroga.

“How do you think you’ll be remembered?,” one reporter asked.

Abdul paused.

“No heart, no chance,” he uttered.

Abdul then walked out of the arena, still with his child in hand. As they stepped out of the security area, a flash mob of hundreds of Thomasians greeted them. While the UST Yellow Jackets banged out their school’s signature yells, Abdul stopped to take photos with a few of the fans.

“Thank you Karim!,” the sea of yellow chanted. “Thank you Karim!”


Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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