An influx of one-and-done recruits took the UAAP by storm in Season 82, and one who definitely turned heads was two-time CESAFI Most Valuable Player Rey Suerte.
Suerte’s move to the UAAP came as a shocker, as some may have felt that he was more than ready to make the jump to the PBA after establishing himself as one of the top collegiate stars in the country during his time with the University of the Visayas Green Lancers.
Speaking in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ The Prospects Pod, presented by SMART and supported by Chris Sports, alongside fellow Gilas cadets Allyn Bulanadi and Isaac Go, Suerte divulged the reason behind his decision to suit up for a one-and-done season with University of the East.
“Actually hindi pa eh [puwede magpa-draft] kasi November 2018 ‘yung drafting ng PBA sila… Batch nila [Robert] Bolick. Tapos hindi pa ako nakapag-D-League noon. December kasi ‘yung drafting ng D-League noon eh,” bared Suerte.
Suerte first suited up for Che’Lu Bar and Grill, leading the squad to the quarterfinals of the 2019 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup. And with his strong showing in the developmental league, teams from the UAAP started to inquire about his services.
The 6-foot-3 gunner, who had just graduated from UV after a four-year stay, was eligible to play in the UAAP through the ‘Troy Rike rule’. It stipulates that players who acquired their bachelor’s degree from a non-UAAP school can still play for the said school given that they still have one playing year left and they enroll in a master’s course.
One of the few schools that tried to get first dibs on the Cebuano hotshot was Far Eastern University head coach Olsen Racela. But after talking to then-UE head coach Joe Silva and consultant Lawrence Chongson, he instead decided to join the Red Warriors.
“Nung pag-graduate ko ng UV, tumawag ‘yung ano daw, may taga-UE na tumawag daw sa boss namin sa UV, gusto nila akong kunin [na] one-and-done. Pero binalewala ko lang, then after noon pumunta akong Manila, laro D-League. Tapos ‘yun nga, sabi nila Boss Danny [Espiritu] na pwede pa daw ako maglaro sa UAAP, then kinausap ako ng FEU,” shared Suerte.
“And then nung nalaman ng UE na kinausap ako ng FEU, na interesado na ako maglaro sa UAAP ng one year, ‘yun. Kinausap ako ni Coach Joe Silva, nila Coach Lawrence Chongson, ‘yun nga, napili ko UE. Ayun, punta ako sa UE.”
Suerte — who led UV to three consecutive CESAFI titles — went on to lead a revamped UE squad to a 4-10 slate. He averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, earning him a spot in the UAAP Mythical Five.
He would then suit up for a team owned by the late Bong Tan in MPBL club Batangas-Tanduay, leading the squad to the playoffs.
Later on, he was selected to be part of the special Gilas Draft where he was picked second overall by Blackwater — making his gamble with UE worth it.