Rhenz Abando is so engrossed in capturing the NCAA Season 97 men’s basketball title for the Letran Knights that a Most Valuable Player award was regarded as a mere afterthought.
The 6-foot-2 spring-loaded forward will be more motivated to help seal Letran’s second straight championship in Game 2 of their titular showdown with the Mapua Cardinals after emerging as the finest player of the season.
Aside from the MVP trophy, Abando will also be named Rookie of the Year during the awarding ceremony prior to the Knights-Cardinals championship clash on Sunday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
“My priority is to win the championship because I don’t want to be a bridesmaid anymore,’’ said Abando, who transferred to Letran a year after the playing for a University Santo Tomas side that lost in the UAAP Finals in 2019 .
“Winning the MVP is just a bonus, but I’m still thankful for the blessing,’’ added Abando after averaging 15.73 points, 6.36 rebounds, 1.73 assists and 1.27 blocks despite coming off the bench most of the time.
Abando, who hails from Sto. Tomas, Pangasinan, pulled off the Rookie-MVP accomplishment after Mapua’s Allwell Oraeme did the trick in 2015. San Beda’s Sam Ekwe achieved the feat in 2006 and Gabby Espinas of Philippine Christian University won the same in 2004.
The 24-year-old Abando will lead the Mythical Five that includes his teammate Jeo Ambohot, Arellano bigman Justin Arana, power forward JM Calma of San Sebastian and St. Benilde’s Will Gozum.
Ambohot, the third overall pick of the recent PBA Draft, averaged 10.45 points, 10.45 rebounds and 1.55 blocks while Arana, who was selected fourth overall in the pro league’s rookie exercise, tallied 17.11 rebounds, 14.78 points, 2.78 blocks and 1.44 assists.
Calma, the season’s top scorer, compiled averages of 16.89 points, 10.33 rebounds. 1.22 assists and one block per game while Gozum had 13.27 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.82 blocks in 11 games.
Unbeaten in 11 games, the Knights are looking to sweep their best-of-three series with the Cardinals following a narrow 68-63 in the Finals opener last Sunday.
Joining Abando in the Mythical Five are his Letran teammate Jeo Ambohot, Arellano center Justin Arana, San Sebastian’s JM Calma, and St. Benilde’s Will Gozum.
Ambohot averaged 10.45 points, 10.45 rebounds, and 1.55 blocks for the Knights, while Arana topped the league in boards with his 17.11 rebounds, alongside his 14.78 points, 2.78 blocks, and 1.44 assists for the Chiefs.
Calma led the league in scoring with his 16.89 points, to go with 10.33 boards, 1.22 assists, and 1.0 block for the Golden Stags, as Gozum got 13.27 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.82 rejections for the Blazers.
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