MANILA, Philippines—University of the Philippines may have failed to end its long final four drought in UAAP Season 80, but the Fighting Maroons did not go home empty-handed at the end of the men’s basketball tournament.
The team was honored by Milo with the “Nutri-Up Up Your Galing Performance Award,” while the Maroons’ athletic young guard, Juan Gomez de Liaño, earned Rookie of the Year honors.
He was the runaway winner, tallying 46.69 statistical points after averaging 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game for a UP team that finished with a 6-8 win-loss record.
“I had a big role coming in, and I had to do what I had to do,” said Gomez de Liaño, who was often UP’s first guard off the bench and provided its second unit with a much-needed scoring punch whenever Paul Desiderio and Jun Manzo were resting.
“I’m really grateful that I won the award,” he added. “It’s just the beginning, not just for me, but the team as well.”
The younger Gomez de Liaño showed flashes of brilliance in the tournament, impressing fans with his smooth scoring skills and leaping ability. He also proved to be a strong rebounder and displayed his court vision at times as well.
He is the first UP player to win the Rookie of the Year award since Kyles Lao in 2013.
Yet Gomez de Liaño, who won the MVP award in the juniors division with UP Integrated School before going to the seniors program, is the first to say that he needs to do more.
“I’ll just continue to work and get better every day,” said Gomez de Liaño, who often linked up with his older brother, Javi, for highlight reel plays.
With Gomez de Liaño expected to be even better next year and Bright Akhuetie set to come in, expectations are high for the Fighting Maroons in Season 81 – something that the young guard welcomes.
“Masaya kami na marami ng nakatingin sa amin, expecting us to do great,” he said. “We’re just trying to live up to their expectations.”