In the early stages of the 91st season of the National Collegiate Athletic Assocation (NCAA), two of the biggest and brightest big men in Philippine collegiate basketball take center stage on Tuesday, July 7, 2015.
Nigerian student-athletes Bright Akhuetie, of the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA, and Allwell Oraeme, of the Mapua Institute of Technology, have been the talk of the town with their outstanding performances in the first week of the tournament.
The 19-year old Oraeme had two impressive double-double performances in as many games against the San Beda Red Lions and the San Sebastian Stags. The Mapuan had 13 points and 16 rebounds in his debut. But what stood out was his second game outing against the Stags where he scored 15 points while grabbing a tournament high 22 rebounds. Moreover, Oraeme was able to secure the win with a block on Bradwyn Guinto, one of his eight blocks in the game.
On the other end, FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup Most Valuable Player Bright Akhuetie had a disappointing nine point, nine rebound outing in his NCAA debut. The 18-year old would more than improve on his initial outing in pounding the CSB Blazers with a monstrous 44 point, 17 rebound explosion. Akhuetie dominated the thin frontline of the Blazers in shooting a crisp 67.9% from the field (19/28).
The league leader in points, Akhuetie, and the league leader in rebounds, Oraeme, are set to face-off for the first time but, actually, the two have met back in their home country Nigeria.
“We came from Nigeria but from different locations. I just heard about them [Akhuetie and Eze]. I met them in Nigeria when I was a boy but that’s it,”the 6’9”Mapuan told us. “I was playing [basketball] since I was 14, that’s when I heard about them. My first sport was football back then.” Akhuetie also confirmed this in saying, “He came from Nigeria so I know him.”
But the first time these two young centers shared the hard courts was actually here in the Philippines. “We played one time in the Father Martin’s,” recalled Akhuetie. “It was a good game, but me and Prince [Eze] were able to defend him well.” Oraeme confirmed this in saying that it was one of the toughest games he’s played, “it was a really tough game but now I’m ready for it,” he exclaimed.
On previewing the game and the match-up, MIT team captain Josan Nimes said it best in saying, “it’s gonna be an intense game. They have two beasts, in Bright and Eze, but we have a beast of our own,” pointing to Allwell during the entire conversation.
On looking forward to the game, even against his fellow countryman, Akhuetie told us that he expects that he and Oraeme will still play with the same intensity they have just like in every other game.“We will still come out and play. This is still basketball,” the 6’8” center closed.