PERPETUAL Help has never won the NCAA men’s championship since joining the league in the 80s.
The title drought could just end this year.
Expected to get a big lift from two difference-making Nigerian imports in Bright Akhuetie and Prince Eze, the Altas are eyeing no less than winning their first ever title when the NCAA unfolds its 91st season on Sunday with the centerpiece event of basketball kicking off hostilities at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The presence of Akhuetie and Eze, along with reigning MVP and Gilas cadet team standout Earl Scottie Thompson, have made the Las Pinas-based school a legitimate threat to San Beda's ambitious bid to win a sixth straight crown.
The 6-foot- 8 Akhuetie made the biggest impression among all incoming African rookies by coming through with a strong showing in the Altas’ pre-season campaigns in the Fr. Martin Collegiate Cup and the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, where they made it to the quarterfinals.
Eze, standing at 6-foot-11, also made a good account of himself in both tournaments and should be a strong backup to the talented Akhuetie.
For Thompson, a vital cog in Gilas cadets’ successful gold medal bid in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore a week ago, the season serves as his swan song and is therefore looking to end his collegiate career in style before applying for next year’s PBA Draft.
“I hope to help Perpetual Help to win an NCAA championship before I graduate and hopefully, play in the PBA," said Thompson, a proud son of Digos, Davao del Sur, in Filipino.
Perpetual Help coach Aric del Rosario, however, thinks everything will hinge on how Akhuetie and Eze perform.
“I expect more from them,” said del Rosario of Akhuetie and Eze. “They will be the anchor of this team, we need them to be rocksolid especially in defense.”
Also expected to step up big for the Altas this year following the departure of stalwarts Juneric Baloria, Harold Arboleda, Justin Alano, and Joel Jolangcob, are Gab Dagangon, Gerald Dizon, Ric Gallardo, Kevin Oliveria, and new starting point guard Crispin Elopre II.
“We will miss a lot of players from last year so I expect the other guys to step up more,” said del Rosario.