UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas' Aljon Mariano starred in the biggest upset yet early in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament this season.
After missing out the entire season last year due to injury, Mariano quickly emerged as a player to watch after steering the Tigers to a thrilling 71-70 triumph over four-time defending champion Ateneo last Thursday.
“Breakout game talaga ni Aljon. We expected na puputok siya this season,” said UST coach Pido Jarencio.
Mariano fired 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Tigers' dramatic comeback from 19 points down.
The stirring win was a huge rebound for the Tigers, who opened their campaign with a heartbreaking loss to Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 73-72, in a game where Mariano chipped in 10 points.
“Pinaghandaan ko talaga ang season na to,” said the 6-foot-3 Mariano, who skipped last season owing to a fractured right ankle.
Mariano's heroics earned him the UAAP Press Corps Player of the Week award, the citation given by sports scribes covering the collegiate beat and ACCEL 3XVI.
“Gusto ko talaga pagbalik ko, malakas ang impact,” admitted the 19-year-old Tiger.
Mariano edged other top performers for the week including FEU's Terrence Romeo, La Salle's Jeron Teng, Ateneo's Nico Salva and National University's Bobby Ray Parks.
Jarencio said he expects more big games from his comebacking forward.
“This year madami kaming pwede puntahan na players, lalo na sa end game,” said Jarencio. “Si Mariano, may ilalabas pa yan. Ang kailangan na lang niya ay consistency.”