Rhenz Abando took the road less taken, Monday afternoon.
A star in the UAAP in his own right, the 6-foot-2 do-it-all swingman made the jump to NCAA school Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
Though the 22-year-old was also courted by National University and Adamson University, he was dead-set on moving to an NCAA team. And it’s because of one thing — he does not want to face University of Santo Tomas.
“Same Dominican school naman e. Ayoko rin mag-UAAP kasi ‘pag UAAP tapos nakalaban ko UST, baka ‘pag nag-chant ng ‘Go USTE’ baka bigla ko depensahan ‘yung mga kakampi ko sa ibang school,” quipped Abando.
“Ayoko talaga makalaban UST!”
Still, Abando — who averaged 11.71 points, 5.29 rebounds, and a team-high 1.29 blocks during Season 82 — will miss the big crowds that the UAAP draws.
Unlike the UAAP, the majority of NCAA games are played in the Filoil Flying V Centre. But when it comes to big games, the decibel also increases in the games.
“Mami-miss ko ‘yung crowd mismo. As in ‘yung crowd ng UST na ‘pag nag-chant na ng ‘Go Uste’, wala nang imposible sa ‘yo e. Lahat posible na. Tatayo talaga balahibo mo,” continued the native of La Union.
Still, the competition is as fierce in the NCAA as in the UAAP — more so now that the league has banned foreign student-athletes from taking part in their tournaments.
“Mas okay ako sa Letran kasi All-Filipino. Nakikita ko kasi sa NC talagang balyahan. Pure talent talaga dun. Laban lang.”
Joining Abando in Letran are fellow ex-Growling Tigers Brent Paraiso and Ira Bataller. Having those two will help ease their transition to the Knights, Abando believes.
Moreover, he can’t wait to be alongside the likes of Fran Yu, Larry Muyang, and the rest of the Knights’ championship core.
“Excited ako kasi ‘pag kalaban namin sila sa D-League, lagi kami nila tinatalo. Sana mag-click kami bilang kakampi,” Abando recalled, as it was Petron-Letran who handed UST its first loss in the 2019 PBA D-League Foundation Cup, 114-101.
If there’s one thing Abando can promise to Letran, it is that he will give his all every game, just as he did for UST.
“Mapro-promise ko lang na gagawin ko ang lahat tulad ng sa UST. Kung kaya ko higitan, gagawin ko lahat ng makakaya ko hanggang dulo.”