EVEN though he's set to play in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), Ken Tuffin says his collegiate career isn't over yet.
"My collegiate career in FEU is not over," the 6-foot-5 gunner said. "I applied for the NZNBL draft as an amateur and the team picked me as an amateur because I explained to them my situation."
Tuffin was selected by the Taranaki Mountainairs in the seventh round of the 2020 NZNBL Draft last week, with the season set to open on June 23.
The Filipino-New Zealander clarified that he gained clearance from the Far Eastern University management before pursuing this option.
"I’ve got the full support from our athletic director Mark Molina and our head coach Olsen Racela. I talked to both of them first before I put my name in the draft and they were very positive about the idea of me playing here," he said.
"I’ve had many questions about this from multiple people over the last couple of days and I want to make it clear that I will be returning to FEU to play my final year -- whenever that is because I understand that it’s dependent on the COVID-19 situation."
As the Tamaraws' team captain last year, Tuffin posted 6.6 points on a 38-percent shooting from deep, alongside 3.6 rebounds as they made it to the stepladder semis as the three-seed before bowing to University of Santo Tomas.
He still has one more playing year remaining and that, to him, means that he still has an unfinished business in Morayta.
"For the moment, I’m going to play in the NBL with every intention of returning to FEU," the 23-year-old said.
Tuffin sees this campaign as a chance for improvement while also relishing the opportunity to play in the semi-pro league he watched when he was growing up.
"Being drafted in the NBL was awesome and I was quite stoked to have my name called out. I was lucky enough to attend a couple pre-draft work outs and was invited to further camps to train with the team and it seemed as though the coaches liked what I had to offer," said Tuffin, who was born in Porirua in Wellington.
"I used to watch the NBL live as a kid growing up and never thought I’d have the opportunity to play in it since I moved to the Philippines. So honestly, I never thought I’d be back here and have this opportunity."
Tuffin, however, said that making it to the PBA remains as one of his goals.
"The PBA is definitely the long term goal, for sure," he said. "I want to finish my college career in FEU and graduate before deciding what’s next. I'm just focused on the present moment and the opportunity I have right now to get better and play competitive basketball."