EARL Thompson’s hard work and determination paid off, although not the big prize he was initially after, as he has been officially named the MVP of the 90th NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
As expected, the University of Perpetual Help star captured the top individual plum after topping the statistical points race by finishing in the Top Five of four stats categories: fourth in scoring (17.4 points), fifth in rebounds (11.4), second in assists (5.8), and fourth in steals (1.7).
“Nag-bunga yung pinaghirapan ko,” the pride of Digos City, Davao del Sur said. “Nung una, yung goal ko hindi naman MVP eh. Pero nung sabi nilang nasa No. 1 ako, sabi ko pagpatuloy ko na lang, baka sakaling para sa akin nga.”
The prize was a consolation for the 21-year-old wingman after the Altas bowed out of the Final Four for the third straight year against the same opponent in defending champion San Beda.
It was a huge achievement for the player who won the Most Improved Player two seasons ago but struggled last year due to a nagging back injury.
“Ginawa ko na lang motivation yung last year kasi sobrang frustrated ako ’nun,” said Thompson, who won over teammate Harold Arboleda and Red Lions slotman Ola Adeogun.
Arboleda and Adeogun joined Thompson in the Mythical Team with Bradwyn Guinto of San Sebastian and Arellano’s Jiovani Jalalon, who also adjudged Most Improved Player.
Chiefs center Dioncee Holts was named Rookie of the Year, while fellow newcomer Jose Gabayni of Lyceum seized the Defense Player of the Year award.
Gabayni leads the Defensive Team, which also features Thompson, Adeogun, Guinto, and Razak Abdul Wahab of Jose Rizal University.