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Rhenz Abando out to keep up with the best of the best for family, dream, UST

by Niel Victor Masoy, September 03, 2019 11:25am

During this year's collegiate pre-season tournaments, there’s one University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tiger - then relatively unknown - who turned heads with his talent, length, and athleticism.

Coming from Sto. Tomas, La Union, this 6-foot-2 guy introduced himself to the consciousness of Filipino basketball fans by showing his ability to shoot the ball. He introduced himself by showing that ability to take it strong to the hoop and finish. 

This 21-year-old guy impressed fans by pulling out a Lebron-esque block on no less than Joshua Munzon in the 2019 Philippine Basketball Association Developmental League (PBA D-League) first conference. He also thwarted Kobe Paras in the 13th FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup, spicing up that block with a staredown on the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroon phenom.

This guy is Rhenz Abando.

Abando
Photo from PBA Images

The lanky Abando would have made himself known here in Manila three or two years earlier. However, a delay in his arrival happened due to coach Aldin Ayo’s plan of visiting him in Pangasinan was always postponed.

Ayo learned of Abando through his former Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) teammate and former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Chris Calaguio, who was Abando’s coach in the Philippine College of Science and Technology (PhilCST Topnotch) for two years in Calasiao, Pangasinan.

For a quick reference, the Topnotch plays in the Universities, Colleges Athletic Association of Pangasinan (UCAAP) and the Private Schools Athletic Association (PriSAA) in Pangasinan.

In his two years in the PriSAA, Abando earned a First Team Mythical Selection in his rookie year before becoming the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) in his second year. 

“Actually, dapat nung Letran pa si coach Aldin, dapat doon ako. Then, suddenly lumipat siya ng La Salle (De La Salle University in 2016) pero dapat La Salle pa din ako, pero ayun, siguro, God’s plan dito ako sa UST,” said Abando in an interview with Courtside Philippines. 

“Matagal na akong ini-endorse ng coach ko sa Pangasinan kay coach Aldin kasi teammates sila dati - si coach Chris Calaguio. Nung nasa La Salle si coach Aldin parang gusto niya akong makita. Gusto niya bumisita sa Pangasinan tapos hindi natutuloy.”

Abando
Photo from Rhenz Abando's Facebook account

 

That long overdue visit of Ayo in Pangasinan finally pushed through in January 2018, though, and the recruitment finally happened. Abando made his transfer from PhilCST to UST. And after serving his one-year residency with the Catholic school in España, Abando is now ready for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) season 82 Men’s basketball tournament.

Despite his stellar showing in the preseason tournaments the Growling Tigers have joined in, Abando is keeping it low key. He isn’t someone who tells people that these are the things you can expect from him this season. Well, he had that template ‘I will do my best’. For the soft-spoken Abando, he will always let his game do all the talking.

“Expect lang po (ng mga fans) na ibibigay ko lahat ng makakaya ko. Mahirap din po kasi magsalita, kasi ako hindi ako mahilig magsabi eh, basta gagawin ko lang ang makakaya ko. Ayoko magyabang eh,” Abando remarked.

However, Abando admitted that he is out to prove that he can keep up with the best of the best the UAAP can offer. He is not someone who will fold against his more heralded counterparts. He’s doing all of these for his family, for his PBA dream, for his fans, and for UST, after all.

Abando
Photo from PBA Images

 

Abando shared there’s that added motivation for a probinsyano like him to prove that he belongs in the country’s most prestigious collegiate league. For him, there’s that added motivation that a someone like him, who grew up far away for the country's capital city, can keep up with the best of the best. 

“Mas nakaka-motivate yung mga sikat dito sa Manila parang gusto mo silang sabayan. Sila rin yung naging motivation namin eh, kaming mga taga probinsya na iniidolo namin dati tas biglang nakakaharap na namin.”

Abando sees this UAAP stint as his ticket to play in the PBA. And when he’s finally earning that money by playing in the pros, he can give his family a good life.

"Sobrang laking bagay nito kasi unang-una sa lahat - syempre ‘pag nakilala tayo sa UST mabibigyan pa ako ng chance sa PBA. Doon ko na rin mabibigyan ng magandang buhay yung pamilya ko kung papalarin po ako dito.”

His family is Abando’s main source of inspiration. Whenever the going gets tough for him here in the Metro, he just thinks of his family back home to carry on.

“Sobrang laki pong inspirasyon nila. Sa kanila na rin talaga ako humuhugot ng lakas ng loob para makipagsabayan dito. Tapos pag may mga bad days ako dito sa Manila, sa pang araw-araw ko dito, iniisip ko na lang sila, na para sa kanila to,” said Abando.

Fortunately for Abando, he’s surrounded by very welcoming teammates. That makes things a little lighter.

“Sobrang bait po ng mga teammates ko. Nakikisama sila. Parang hindi ako bago sa kanila lalo na yung mga naabutan kong seniors dito nung team B pa ko (last year),” said Abando.

Abando makes his UAAP debut on Wednesday, September 4 as the Growling Tigers face the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors at the Araneta Coliseum.

Mix emotions are already there for Abando. 

“Kinakabahan din, kabado, excited,” he ended. 

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