MANILA, Philippines -- Presumptive Most Valuable Player awardee Malick Diouf lives up to his billing every day for the University of the Philippines (UP), according to his coach, Goldwin Monteverde.
Diouf, the Senegalese center of the Fighting Maroons, is poised to win the top individual award in UAAP Season 85 after a superb elimination round campaign where he averaged 10.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game.
UP went 11-3 in the elimination round, securing the No. 2 seed and a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4. Diouf made sure that they would not need to play a do-or-die affair against National University (NU), as he put up 17 points, 21 rebounds, three blocks and two assists in a 69-61 win for the Maroons.
Afterward, UP coach Goldwin Monteverde praised the way Diouf goes about his business for the team, not just during games but also in practices.
"Si Malick, 'yung effort niya para sa akin, every day even in practice, even outside the way he leads his team, the way he gives advice," said Monteverde. "Kumbaga, every day he's being an MVP sa team namin."
Diouf, however, downplayed the award that will soon be given to him as he insists that his primary focus is on helping the Fighting Maroons retain the UAAP men's basketball crown.
They advanced to the finals for the second season in a row with Wednesday's win over NU, and are now waiting for the winner of the other Final 4 match-up between Ateneo de Manila University and Adamson University.
"The MVP, I think it's just something individual," said Diouf, who is in his second season with UP and won Finals MVP honors in Season 84. "I'm not thinking about it."
"I'm just focusing on the finals, because that's the most important [thing] for the team. So, that's why I don't like the people calling me MVP," he added.
Diouf is the second UP player in four seasons to win MVP honors, after Bright Akhuetie in Season 81.
UAAP Season 85 is streaming on iWantTFC every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.