Much of the discourse surrounding Kevin Quiambao in UAAP Season 86 has been about him being the MVP frontrunner and rightly so.
The reigning UAAP Rookie of the Year made changes to his diet and offseason program, among other things, and because of that, Quiambao has made considerable strides in the span of a year. His per-game averages of 17.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.0 steals through 10 games are much better than his Season 85 per-game averages of 11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.1 steals even as he played just two minutes more on average in Season 86 (27 minutes per game versus around 25 minutes per game in Season 85).
Quiambao, however, isn’t the only one benefitting from this much better version of himself, as his efforts have helped keep the DLSU Green Archers in the hunt for the top spot in the Final Four.
Since their first round loss to the UP Fighting Maroons, the Green Archers have yet to lose a game, and when they faced them again in round two, things looked shaky when the Fighting Maroons took a 75-74 lead with 4:45 left in the game.
Normally, nerves would take over for La Salle, who have developed a penchant for squandering late game leads and suffering heartbreaking losses. Their offense stalls and because of ill-advised shots that lead to misses, the DLSU defense becomes sluggish in its recovery and gives up defensive breakdowns.
That wasn’t the case against UP.
Quiambao immediately proceeded to take back the lead for the Green Archers and helped settle things down for La Salle. Instead of taking contested perimeter shots, DLSU kept going inside for layups and trips to the free throw line, a strategy that kept them ahead earlier in the game.
Quiambao’s evolution this season has had parallels to the Green Archers’ own rise and this has come largely due to the 22-year old’s emergence as an on-court leader. Evan Nelle is, of course, a leader for the team, but Quiambao’s way of leading comes in taking over when the situation calls for it. The likes of Nelle don’t necessarily take a step back as Quiambao has a way of making everyone fit within the grand scheme of things, such as letting Nelle hit the dagger that sealed the victory for La Salle over the Fighting Maroons.
At 7-3, DLSU still has a shot at the top spot in the UAAP, but their upcoming opponents in the AdU Soaring Falcons, UE Red Warriors, FEU Tamaraws, and the ADMU Blue Eagles are all vying for the last spot in the Final Four. If anything, the Green Archers’ newfound confidence in closing out their opponents in recent games should help them against the Blue Eagles, who they lost to in the first round in heartbreaking fashion. While La Salle already beat the Soaring Falcons, Red Warriors, and the Tamaraws in the previous round, they shouldn’t take them lightly and executing well against those teams will prepare them for what’s in store in the Final Four.
What has made Kevin Quiambao the best player in the UAAP thus far for Season 86? A confluence of factors led by developing new offseason habits and the results they have produced. It’s not been lost on the DLSU Green Archers, who have become better as Season 86 went on while overcoming their own struggles.
It’s safe to say that the Green Archers will go as far as Quiambao goes, and if his MVP campaign comes to fruition, so too will their championship aspirations.