EVEN Scottie Thompson could see the big change in Prince Eze's game, and attitude, this NCAA Season 94 compared to their time together three years back.
Volatile and selfish then, the 6-foot-10 center from Nigeria has became a calming presence for Perpetual, establishing himself as the undisputed leader of the pack.
"Mainitin ang ulo niya sa teammates niya dati. Ngayon napansin ko, wala na yun," Thompson observed.
With the transformation, it's no surprise that Eze has also taken his game to another level.
Eze averaged 18.2 points, 16.5 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks this season for the Altas, where the team made it back to the Final Four under Frankie Lim.
Thompson is glad to see Eze change for the better, far from that gangly player which only wanted to do things his way the first time he arrived in Las Pinas.
"I think kita naman 'yung maturity niya sa game. Alam na alam niya kung saan siya pupwesto at kailan siya titira. Nandoon na rin yung leadership niya," he said.
The Ginebra guard also attributed the shift to the stern stewardship of Lim, saying, "Ang galing ng pagkadisiplina niya kay Prince kaya nag-benefit talaga ang team."
Thompson said he's far from surprised that Eze is poised to take home the MVP award, which would make him the fourth Perpetual player to win the plum after Eric Clement Quiday in 1989, Jojo Manalo in 2000, and Thompson in 2014.
"Sobrang happy ako for him dahil alam ko kung gaano niya pinaghirapan yung game niya. Isa talaga siya sa nagdala sa Perpetual sa Final Four," he said of Eze. "I'm proud kasi from Perpetual ulit. I'm sure happy yung community namin."
If Eze does take home the plum, he'll also be the fourth foreign player to win the trophy after Mapua's Allwell Oraeme in 2015 and 2016, San Beda's Sudan Daniel in 2010, and Sam Ekwe in 2006 and 2008 - the last two of which were also handled by Lim.
Thompson feels bad that once again, the Altas fell to the Red Lions in the semifinals, the fifth time in seven years that San Beda gave Perpetual the boot in the playoffs.
"Sayang lang hindi nakapag-finals. Feeling ko naman talaga kaya nilang mag-finals. Nagkakataon lang talaga na San Beda ang kalaban. Kahit nung time ko pa San Beda kami lagi," he said.
"Sana matanggal na yung sumpa next year."