MAC Belo of UAAP champion Far Eastern University will be honored as the Smart Player of the Year in the Collegiate Basketball Awards presented by the UAAP-NCAA Press Corps and Smart Sports in ceremonies at the Saisaki-Kamayan restaurant in EDSA.
Belo received the highest honor given by the group of scribes covering the collegiate beat for leading the Tamaraws to their first championship since 2005 while also emerging as the Finals MVP.
The North Cotabato native — the reluctant superstar of college basketball due to his unassuming ways — joined Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena and La Salle’s Jeron Teng as the only players to win the award.
Belo won the award over fellow Collegiate Mythical Five members Ravena, Mapua’s Allwell Oraeme, University of Santo Tomas’ Kevin Ferrer and University of Perpetual Help’s Scottie Thompson.
Also sharing the spotlight were Coach of the Year winners Nash Racela of FEU and Aldin Ayo, formerly of Letran.
Racela was responsible for ending the Tamaraws’ title drought during his third season at the helm while rookie coach Ayo, who is now with La Salle, emerged as the guiding force behind the Knights’ Cinderella NCAA title run.
The awards night also backed by ACCEL Quantum-3XVI, Gatorade, UAAP Season 78 host University of the Philippines, NCAA Season 91 host Mapua, San Miguel Corporation and the Philippine Sports Commission also paid tribute to one of college basketball’s best coaches.
Aric del Rosario received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions as coach of University of Santo Tomas and University of Perpetual Help.
The man they call “Tatay Aric” led the Growling Tigers to four straight UAAP championships from 1993 to 1996 then came back to coaching this decade and steered the Altas to three NCAA Final Four appearances before leaving the team after this season.
Other awardees were FEU’s Roger Pogoy and Letran’s Kevin Racal (Pivotal Player), San Beda’s Baser Amer, Letran’s Mark Cruz and FEU’s Mike Tolomia (Super Senior), San Beda’s Art dela Cruz and UST’s Ed Daquioag (Impact Player), Arellano’s Jiovanni Jalalon (Accel Court General) and Teng (Gatorade Energy Player).