COLEGIO de San Lorenzo’s Soulemane Chabi Yo is effective as he is flashy, yet has surprisingly flown under the radar of major school basketball programs in the country.
Chabi Yo has made the Griffins one of the top teams outside the UAAP and NCAA. He led the squad to a UCBL Season Two championship while besting longtime Centro Escolar University reinforcement Rod Ebondo for the Best Foreign Player award - and for good reason.
At 6-foot-6, the Beninese recruit can comfortably attack off the dribble, displaying ball handling skills not usually seen from big men in this country.
Down low, he’s strong enough not to be pushed around by more physical defenders and he’s got the athleticism to rise above everyone and throw down those jaw-dropping dunks.
Offense is not even his priority.
“I just play my basketball. I focus on defense first and I play hard. I always am motivated in playing and I always give my best,” said Chabi Yo.
“This is my first year in the country and I just always play my basketball by following the instructions of my coaches everytime I play. I play defense first, when there’s an opportunity to attack, I attack,” he added.
What makes his play even more impressive is that Chabi Yo has yet to fully adjust to the Philippine brand of basketball or to his role with the Griffins.
Having played here for just a year, the high-flying Beninese is still getting the grasp of playing the center position in contrast to his time back home where he played more as a slashing wingman.
“My adjustment is to playing the five here. In my country, I play three or four, but here I have to learn to continuously play five,” he said.
“Filipino basketball is very quick, they run faster, I also adjust to that, running and sprinting, I also would like to add more shooting,” he added.
His head coach Bonnie Garcia just feels lucky to have a guy like him fall on his lap.
“Siya yung talagang core namin. He’s our main man. The guy is very humble and he works hard everyday,” Garcia said.
Why he remained under the radar for so long is certainly a mystery. But with the way he’s performing in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League NCR qualifiers, it won’t be surprising to see teams pursue him even more.
In two games, Chabi Yo averaged 32 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks and two steals while towing the Griffins to the finals of the qualifiers.
Garcia said his prized recruit has already caught the eye of some major teams, but he’s not really worried about it.
“Actually marami na pero nagkausap na kami niyan, okay 'yan. As long as sabi niya sakin, mahal niya yung school, mahal niya yung teammates niya and let’s see what will happen,” said Garcia.
Age could be a factor as Chabi Yo recently turned 22. But if teams pursue him now, he can still play for atleast two years in the UAAP. Foreign players need to serve only a year of residency before becoming eligible under new league rules.
He’ll be 23 after serving a year of residency and could play for atleast two more years if the UAAP rules doesn’t change over the next year or so.
If that happens, everyone will finally get to know who Chabi Yo really is.