|UST's Karim Abdul (20) tries to score against La Salle's Arnold Van Opstal in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 76 men's basketball Finals. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Big men Arnold Van Opstal of De La Salle University and Karim Abdul of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) were both honored to receive individual awards in the UAAP Season 76 tournament, but both players stressed that they would much rather win the men’s basketball championship.
Van Opstal was named the Most Improved Player of the Season, while Abdul was named the “Yellow Cab Big Man of the Season.”
“It feels great that people are recognizing that I’ve worked hard and that I’ve improved,” said Van Opstal, who scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in La Salle’s 77-70 win in Game 2 of the Finals.
“But obviously, it’s about the championship. (The award) is a good sideline,” he added.
Van Opstal teamed up with Norbert Torres in Game 2 as the Green Archers dominated inside, with the two big men combining for 29 points and 24 rebounds.
Abdul scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but was saddled with two early fouls.
“It’s an achievement,” he said of his special award. “But it’s not what’s important. The most important thing is we play as a team and we win the championship.”
“I don’t care about the individual awards. I just want the championship. For me, my coaches will give me the best individual awards that I need if we win the championship,” Abdul added.
With UST winning Game 1 and La Salle rebounding by taking Game 2, the UAAP Season 76 finals will go down to a winner-take-all Game 3 next Saturday, and both Abdul and Van Opstal are raring for the final game of the season.
“I would’ve wanted to immediately play it, but I’m happy that we even got to the third game,” said Van Opstal.
“Game 3, I’m gonna be in kill mode. I’m not gonna relax like I did in the first and second quarters,” said Abdul.