Prized recruit Rhenz Abando belied reports that he is planning to leave University of Santo Tomas (UST) for another team midway through Season 82 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Thursday.
“Yes po, mag-stay po ako at wala rin po akong balak umalis (Yes, I will stay and I have no plans of leaving),” Abando told The Manila Times in a text message.
“Ang dami ko na pong offers before mag-start ang season — ’yung mga offers na ‘yun alam kong mababago ang pamumuhay namin — pero pinili ko pa rin ang UST kasi gusto ko maglaro dito (I got many offers even before the season started — lucrative offers that could improve our life — but I still chose UST because I wanted to play here),” added the 6-foot-2 forward.
Abando, who is averaging 11.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 assists in his rookie year in the UAAP is playing a vital role in the Tigers’ bid for a Final Four return.
Rumors began to swirl when the 21-year-old cager was benched in the game in which UST scored a crucial 84-78 win over University of the Philippines. The victory of the España-based squad allowed them to keep the No. 3 spot with a 6-5 record.
UST head coach Aldin Ayo took a swipe at rival schools that were allegedly recruiting Abando.
“For me, that’s very unethical — in the middle of the season, offering to contact a player. Ini-insulto mo ‘yung bata at players (They are insulting the player and his teammates,” Ayo told The Varsitarian, UST’s official publication, on Thursday.
Ayo earlier confirmed to the same publication that Abando was receiving offers from other schools.
Ayo assured that the forward from Santo Tomas, La Union will stay with the Growling Tigers
Ayo also explained that he benched Abando to protect the team from distractions .
“Kasi may mga UAAP teams na, siguro, strategy nila, they’re going against us on and off the court. They do things para ma-distract ‘yung team (Maybe there are UAAP teams whose strategy is to attack us on and off the court. They do things to distract our team),” added Ayo.
Abando is set to play with the Growling Tigers against the cellar-dwelling National University on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.