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Stats Don’t Lie: The Maturation Progress of Kevin Ferrer

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What a difference a year makes. [READ: Should Kevin Ferrer Jump to the Pros Next Season?]

Last season, with “superstar” Kevin Ferrer, pro-bound Aljon Mariano, and long-time foreign-student athlete, Karim Abdul, leading the way, the UST Tigers were expected to compete for a Final Four spot. After all, a large part of their core was still intact, and after two straight Finals appearances, the thought of not making the playoffs was unimaginable.

Not only did they fail to grab a top-4 spot, they weren’t even remotely competitive during their first year under new Coach Bong Dela Cruz. Internal struggles and selfish play undermined their campaign, as players took a me-first attitude throughout the season.

Fast-forward to today and the Tigers are currently tied for 1st place with FEU with a 4-1 slate. Considering that they’ve already played in two 50/50 games (going 1-1), this is a pretty good spot to be in.

While many are pointing to big improvement in lead guard Ed Daquiaog’s play, the biggest reason why UST is playing at a high level is because of the maturation of senior Kevin Ferrer.

Kevin Ferrer… mature?

We’re talking about the guy whose antics in the past have included taunting, flopping, sticking as close to his opponent without “legally” fouling him, and – as we saw last year – play “kanya-kanya” basketball to prove himself.

Yes. That Kevin Ferrer.

But, as I said above, what a difference a year makes.

After struggling with both injuries and a new system, Kevin is putting up MVP-like stats through the first three weeks of the season. Just take a look at his basic stat line, care of our friends at Humblebola.com

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Stats Don't Lie: The Maturation Progress of Kevin Ferrer

He’s posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and most remarkably, field goal percentage. Digging deeper, his usage rate is up just a tad bit to 26.2% (from 25.1%), indicating that he’s being more selective and waiting for the game to come to him as opposed to forcing it like he did last year.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Stats Don't Lie: The Maturation Progress of Kevin Ferrer

Last year, Kevin settled for a lot of off-the-dribble 3s, where he shot a mere 13%. This year, he’s taken less dribble pull-ups and making more of them (33% FG%), a sign of both better shot selection.

Better teamwork is also getting Kevin better wide open spot up shots. In 8 games last season, Kevin shot just 3/18 on catch and shoot attempts. This year, there’s a big improvement to 31% (7/19). This is crucial for the team, as it helps provide space for Ed Daquiaog to drive or for Abdul to post up.

Moreover, the biggest reason why Ferrer is far more effective this year is that he’s finishing on his drives to the basket now. In Season 77, he shot just 21% on drives to the basket, as he struggled to get all the way to the rim, often settling for off-balanced runners and jumpers.

This season, he’s taking the ball all the way to the rack. This has the added effect of him drawing fouls – he’s been fouled on 41% of his drives this year – an insane number that would rival that of Jeron Teng and Kiefer Ravena. This may be due to him being healthy now, giving him both more strength and confidence in his ability to finish.

More than his actual game though, Kevin’s maturity is best shown away from the ball. It seems as if he understands that his immaturity in the past may hurt his draft stock, as teams shy away from head cases and ball hogs (i.e. Roi Sumang).

One reason why Kevin may have “grown up” is due to his stint with the Gilas Cadet program. Playing with players at his level showed him what it would take to elevate both his game and his leadership skills. This season, if you watch him closely, you’ll see him huddling his teammates together, teaching, encouraging, putting his arm around a teammate. He’s clearly the emotional leader of the team and everyone – from the coaching staff, to the players, and the UST fans – all see this.

Should Kevin continue to grow and remain the rock of the Tigers, don’t be surprised to see UST not only compete for a Final Four spot, but have an actual chance of making a return to the Finals.

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