In just her first playing year, Tin Cayabyab has etched her name in National University history by being crowned the Finals MVP of the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Against De La Salle University in the big dance, the 5-foot-10 cager averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 2.5 steals in 22 minutes of action to lead the Lady Bulldogs to their seventh consecutive championship.
“Isa sa hindi ko malilimutan na nangyari sa amin this season is yung natalo kami against La Salle. Dun kami mas nagtulungan para makuha itong championship. Mas naging together kami after namin matalo,” said the 20-year-old product of Chiang Kai Shek after her side clinched the title last Sunday.
“Madami kaming realization kung ano yung dapat naming gawin. Sobrang laki din ng tulong ng mga coaches namin dahil kahit ganun yung nangyari, hindi nila kami pinabayaan, hindi nila kami iniwan. Mas hinila nila kami paangat kaya namin nakuha tong championship na to.
For NU, Cayabyab’s rise has been a long time coming. She may have started Season 85 slowly but she managed to find a way to raise her game.
Adjusting to the seniors level from high school ball is no easy feat and the Lady Bulldogs staff made it a point to help her through those growing pains.
“We always feel that this game is about the process,” said NU mentor Aris Dimaunahan. “It’s a process kasi highly-touted player si Tin from the high school ranks and siyempre may pressure din sa kanya.
“Ang ginawa ko lang sa kanya is I just guided her. Sa start nga, parang four games ng season namin, she wasn’t even starting. We made adjustments of giving her the chance to start and from then on she blossomed.”
When she finally got her groove, Cayabyab was a force to behold. She averaged 12.79 points and 5.5 rebounds in 14 games during the elimination round.
“Hindi natatapos dun. Kahit araw-araw to napapagalitan araw-araw on the defensive side. The good thing about her willing siya and able siya to accept criticism. In-embrace niya yun. We challenged her to defend better than the way she was playing in the first round,” said the former Blackwater Elite head coach.
“We set an example in Camille Clarin. Si big ate CC, we talked about her na before CC wasn’t even defending as well but this year she embraced the role and challenge of being a two-way player,” he continued.
“From that point on, kasi sila din yung nagbabantayan sa practice. Siguro at some point, medyo nahihila nila yung isa’t isa to become better persons, to become better players.”
For Cayabyab, winning the championship during her first season was special while getting the prestigious award to come along with it is simply a bonus.
Now with the Season 85 Finals MVP gong under her belt, she will only grow stronger from here. She will no doubt be a mainstay for the Lady Bulldogs in the years to come.
“Unexpected din tong award na nakuha ko kasi wala talaga sa mindset ko yan,” she said. “Gusto ko lang mangyari this season ay ma-improve ko yung dapat kong ma-improve and natulungan ako ng mga coaches ko especially mga teammates ko.”