HARD work in an injury-free preseason is apparently paying dividends for Arnold Van Opstal.
Van Opstal has transformed into a tower of power for De La Salle this season, raising his averages from 5.0 points and 5.4 rebounds the season before to 9.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in the current campaign.
But more than the numbers, it is the impact Van Opstal has made inside the paint that has powered the Green Archers, who have steamrolled through the second round of the eliminations on the way to the finals.
“I trained really hard this summer,” Van Opstal said. “Last summer, I got injured so I really couldn't work on my game. This summer, I was determined to work on my game and had to work double time. Luckily, it has been paying off."
His efforts did not go unnoticed as the UAAP handed Van Opstal the Most Improved Player award for the season while also getting an invite from national head coach Chot Reyes to join the Gilas Pilipinas cadet roster.
Now, Van Opstal and the Green Archers are one win away from the UAAP title as they play a rubber match on Saturday against University of Santo Tomas.
“It feels great and honored that people are recognizing that I worked hard and improved,” Van Opstal said.
“But obviously, it’s all about the championship. (The awards) is a good sideline,” he added.
Van Opstal said he is definitely interested in joining the Gilas cadet squad.
“It’s flattering. It was really nice that people acknowledge me as one of the future bigs of the Philippines. So I just have to keep working on my game and not (let the success) get into my head,” Van Opstal said.
Van Opstal earned a shot at a UAAP crown when the Green Archers defeated the Tigers, 77-70, in Game Two last week. He (13 points, 14 rebounds) and fellow big man Norbert Torres (16 and 10) played a key role in the victory with double-double efforts against UST's Karim Abdul.
“We played our hearts out on the floor. We gave our all out there. We took advantage of our size. Norbert played well, and it worked for the better. That’s really our advantage, our height and our size,” Van Opstal said.
Van Opstal is ready to play his all once again for Game Three.
“I’m happy that we got a third game. I’m ready, whatever it takes. You leave it all. You get tired but I’m ready to get tired,” said Van Opstal.