MANILA — Francis Lopez is officially cleared to start his UAAP career.
The 6-foot-6, Filipino-Angolan forward’s eligibility for University of the Philippines starting Season 86’s Men’s Basketball Tournament was once in question after Lopez previously signed a contract with Overtime Elite, a United States-based professional basketball league.
The former Ateneo High School star, however, did not suit up or play even once for Overtime. This resulted in Lopez being "unanimously" allowed by the UAAP board to play for the Fighting Maroons this year, as per UP Office for Athletics and Sports Development director Bo Perasol.
“First and foremost, I’m just really happy for Francis. I really think that he deserves to play in this country, but there was a unanimous decision about [him] playing,” Perasol said during the league’s media conference on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“It’s all about giving him the chance to play. He’s young, he’s got the talent, so he needs to showcase whatever he has.”
Having Lopez on board will mean that the Season 84 champions will have all their cards on deck as they aim to reclaim the hoops title this year, and adding to this is the Fighting Maroons’ long break that saw them participate and dominate in the various preseason tournaments that they played in.
“I think that among the seasons [that] passed, this is where we really have prepared in terms of time that coach Gold [Monteverde] was able to have with the team,” Perasol said.
“We also had the time to develop the rookies that we have. In terms of time, in terms of playing experience together, we really maximized our off-season.”
This also meant that State-U had the chance to integrate Lopez and their other rookies into their system, especially with some of their team veterans in Carl Tamayo, Zav Lucero, and Henry Galinato entering the pro leagues.
”The good thing about that is it happened almost a year ago. We were able to adjust in terms of our personnel and manpower. I saw that we were able to get the chemistry working together,” the former UP head coach said.
Still, Perasol is wary of the fact that every other UAAP squad also had the same time to prepare, meaning that they will also come in hungry and ready to bring home the league’s much-coveted title.
“We would always want to vie for the championship, but you cannot predict what happens.”
“Everyone has the tools to make it to the championship.”