BRIGHT Akhuetie is set to give the University of the Philippines seniors basketball program a big shot in the arm with the Nigerian sensation’s decision to join the Fighting Maroons.
The 6-7 Akhuetie has made his intention to play for UP known on Tuesday, and the official move is already in the works after he was given his release papers by Perpetual Help following a meeting between school owner Antonio Tamayo and Maroons bigwigs led by head coach Bo Perasol.
Akhuetie will have to sit out for a year to take up his residency, but this early, excitement is in the air for the Maroons as they have finally obtained a blue-chip cager in the UAAP.
“BRIGHT AKHUETIE MADE THE BEST DECISION OF HIS LIFE. Lol. Excited for the team and the community,” former UP cager Jett Manuel, who played his final season with the Maroons last year, posted on his Twitter account.
By recruiting Akhuetie, the Maroons will be getting a legitimate big man who can easily give double-double numbers, something that the school didn’t have since perhaps the days of Benjie Paras in the 1980s.
“(He will give us) stability sa slot position and the confidence that he will bring sa mga teammates niya,” Perasol said.
In his second and final season with the Altas, Akhuetie posted averages of 18.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in helping Perpetual Help enter the Final Four, before bowing out to San Beda in the playoffs.
But while his impact on the court will not be immediately felt in the coming season, the real effect could come outside the basketball floor and could very well rejuvenate the Maroons basketball program.
In his move to Diliman, UP has become an attractive destination for recruits, something that was mostly dominated by La Salle and Ateneo in the past years.
UP already has a Mythical Five member from Season 79 in Paul Desiderio, and upcoming stars like Javi Gomez De Liano and Cebu product Jun Manzo. Akhuetie’s entry only makes UP’s future a little brighter.
“Definitely, Akhuetie’s move will make our school an intriguing choice for top recruits. We will be able to compete in the recruitment game,” said a UP official who refused to be named.