As towering big man Cheick Kone has gone AWOL for UP after making his debut in UAAP Season 78, Lionel Tekoudjou is set to reinforce the Fighting Maroons as they try to end their Final Four spell.
Confirming to FOX Sports he is eligible to play for the Diliman squad next season, the France native was unable to hide his excitement.
“I’m really ready. I’m getting myself to be ready. I work hard every day to get myself ready,” he said. “It still depends on the coaches. I just do what I have to do and work hard.”
The 20-year-old finished his last 2 years of high school at the University of Batangas, where Tekoudjou admits he got discovered.
“My family is in Batangas, they own University of Batangas. I went there to play. We played in NCAA South, I was the MVP there. UP saw me. I’m here in the Philippines for 4 years already. I’m in UP for basketball,” he said.
Even though the Maroons have entered the Final Four just twice in the last 22 years, Tekoudjou believes he is joining the ‘smartest’ squad in the league.
“UP is a smart team. Smartest in the UAAP. I don’t know what’s wrong, but that was the past, let’s leave it behind. Let’s move forward,” said Tekoudjou, who has been playing for UP’s Team B the past couple of years.
Not all foreign imports who played in the UAAP have panned out and Tekoudjou hopes he won’t be next in line.
For a team that last qualified for the semifinals in 1997, UP needs all the help it can get.
“I hope I can be something,” he said. “I really want to help UP. I just have to work hard.”
“Getting rebounds. Shooting. Everything,” he added. “I will sacrifice myself. I just have to do my job.” — By Arylle Magtalas