UNIVERSITY of the Philippines hasn't had a legitimate contender for the UAAP Most Valuable Player award in decades, let alone a front-runner for the plum.
The last time Diliman had the best player in the men's division of the league was over three decades ago when Eric Altamirano won the plum in 1986, the same year the Fighting Maroons last hoisted the title.
That's why excitement couldn't get any higher with Bright Akhuetie leading the statistical points race and if things stand, could possibly end what has now been a 32-year drought for an MVP from UP.
However, the Nigerian has something grander in mind than just taking that trophy home.
"I'm not fighting for it," he said. "If I get it at the end of the season, good. But if it's something like everybody thinks I'm gonna try everyday to put in the numbers to get it? Nah, that's not what I'm about."
All Akhuetie cares about is ending another run of futility — a 21-year Final Four dry spell for the Fighting Maroons dating back to the heyday of Paolo Mendoza.
"I would want something better, which is for us to get to the Final Four and make it to the Finals, win the championship. I prefer those better than the MVP," he said.
Akhuetie has had a tear this UAAP Season 81 for the Fighting Maroons as he currently averages 17.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals.
He added to that argument with another solid showing in UP's 94-81 triumph over UE, tallying 28 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
Akhuetie does appreciate his efforts reflecting with a possible end-of-season award, noting: "I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It's a good thing that, at least, it shows something like me putting in effort."
The goal, though, never changes for the 6-foot-7 slotman.
"I want something bigger and better, meaning something that everybody can share," he said.
The Final Four drive, however, remains an uphill climb for the Fighting Maroons as they stand at joint fifth place with their 4-5 card.
UP braces for a tough grind when it meets contenders Far Eastern University and Adamson next.