What makes an MVP in basketball?
Is the MVP the best player on the best team? That would be the easy answer.
Is the MVP a team’s leading scorer? Scoring the most points is what wins games and the biggest contributor to that should be worthy of being acknowledged as the most valuable player on the team.
What about a steady presence? The one that doesn’t need to score most of the points, but just enough to keep the defense on its toes. That same presence controls the paint through rebounding and defense. In a nutshell, life on the court would suck without him.
Such has been the case for the UAAP in recent years, where the likes of Ben Mbala, Ange Kouame, and Malick Diouf were integral to the championship conquests of their respective teams. Mbala was able to do so while winning the UAAP Season 79 MVP award, but after that season, it has either been MVP or title for him, Kouame, and Diouf. Bright Akhuetie and Soulemane Chabi Yo were the other recent UAAP MVPs, but they too came home without the championship.
This season, Diouf has the opportunity to not only win both the MVP and the title in UAAP Season 86, but also match a feat done by the likes of Mbala, Kiefer Ravena, and Bobby Ray Parks Jr.: win back-to-back UAAP MVPs.
The UAAP MVP is a data-dependent award where a premium is placed on individual stars and wins. On the surface, it makes sense, because it gives the best player on the best team a good chance to win the award. It’s safe to say Diouf has fit that bill even during his debut back in Season 84.
Diouf once again showed why he’s one of the frontrunners for the Season 86 MVP award with his performance in the UP Fighting Maroons’ 67-64 win over the DLSU Green Archers. The UAAP Season 84 Finals MVP did his damage in the paint, as found ways to get open inside on offense and punished the aggressive Green Archer defense during the Fighting Maroons’ 21-3 third quarter. Defensively, his rebounding and activity in the paint stymied La Salle’s offense and kept the battle inside from getting out of hand in the first half.
Diouf, though, was fortunate to escape any punishment besides the unsportsmanlike foul for his closed fist landing on NU Bulldog Ken Padrones, who will miss the rest of UAAP Season 86 in order to recover from surgery to repair the nasal and orbital fractures on his face. The Senegalese big man will have to be careful moving forward and manage both his actions and emotions.
The last time a UAAP MVP won the UAAP title in the same season was Ben Mbala, who did so with DLSU back in 2016. Malick Diouf and the UP Fighting Maroons have the chance to do the same in UAAP Season 86, with Diouf getting a shot at earning consecutive MVP awards.
The graduating senior would obviously prefer the championship over the MVP award, but let’s be honest: the chance to put himself in very elite company is an enticing opportunity as well.