4 UAAP MVPs who failed to shine in the PBA

The UAAP is where a lot of young Filipinos showcase their talents and give us a preview of their professional basketball careers. However, success in the collegiate level does not necessarily equate to success in the pros.

James Yap, Arwind Santos, Terrence Romeo, and Kiefer Ravena are some examples that winning the MVP in the UAAP is normally a good indication that a player will succeed in the PBA. But not all MVPs are created equal. Here are four former UAAP MVPs who, for one reason or another, haven’t had the same individual success in the PBA as they did in college (coincidentally, these four players won the award for four straight years from 2006 to 2009):

Ken Bono, Season 69 MVP (2006)
UAAP School: Adamson Soaring Falcons
Current PBA Team: Meralco Bolts

Ken Bono was an unstoppable force in his last year in the UAAP. In his MVP season, the 6’5, sweet-shooting center averaged 22.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game and led Adamson to the Final Four. Too bad he couldn’t replicate that success in the PBA.

Bono was the 6th pick in the 2007 draft, but poor conditioning and below-average athleticism really hurt his ability to make an impact in the league. After bouncing around five teams in his first five seasons, Bono served as a practice player for three years. He eventually made it back as an active player for the Meralco Bolts in the 2015-2016 season as a seldom-used back-up center.

Jervy Cruz, Season 70 MVP (2007)
UAAP School: UST Growling Tigers
Current PBA Team: Barangay Ginebra San Miguel

After a Mythical Five selection and a memorable cinderella run to the championship in Season 69, Jervy Cruz averaged 16.7 points, 15.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in Season 70 on his way to the MVP award. He returned for his final playing year in Season 71, but lost his bid for back-to-back MVPs to Rabeh Al-Hussaini.

Cruz was the 4th overall pick in the 2009 draft but due to his lack of size and athleticism, he has been relegated mostly as a back-up big man in all the teams he has played for. While that is a valuable role in its own right, it is a far-cry from the dominant force he was during his best years in the UAAP.

Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Season 71 MVP (2008)
UAAP School: Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles
Current PBA Team: Blackwater Elite

Rabeh Al-Hussaini’s performance in Season 71 is probably one of the most surprising MVP runs in UAAP history. After averaging just 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in Season 70, the Fil-Kuwaiti center caught the league off-guard by averaging 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds in Season 71. His breakout season culminated with the Blue Eagles’ first championship since 2002. Al-Hussaini returned for his final playing year in Season 72, where he was also a member of the Mythical Five and was named the Finals MVP.

Al-Hussiani’s dominance in the UAAP led to him being selected 2nd overall in the 2010 PBA draft. He averaged 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in his first year in the pros and won Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, everything has gone downhill for him since then.

Notorious for his temperamental personality, the 6-foot-7 center has bounced around the league since his rookie year. His most notable stretch after his first year was when he unauthorizedly played in the Kuwaiti basketball league despite being under contract with the Meralco Bolts. Al-Hussaini was just recently traded by the NLEX Road Warriors to the Blackwater Elite, which would be his 9th team in the 12-team PBA.

Dylan Ababou, Season 72 MVP (2009)
UAAP School: UST Growling Tigers
Current PBA Team: Columbian Dyip

Despite losing Jervy Cruz to graduation for Season 72, the UST Growling Tigers continued to be a Final Four contender under the emergence of another MVP in Dylan Ababou. The soft-spoken Ababou averaged 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds in his final year in the UAAP and led the Growling Tigers to the 4th seed before losing to the eventual champs, the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles.

Ababou was picked 10th overall in 2011 by the Barako Bull Energy, but would eventually be traded in the middle of his rookie season to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings. Unfortunately for the versatile 6-foot-3 forward, injuries and a crowded rotation pushed him deeper and deeper into Ginebra’s rotation during his three years with the team. He has since bounced around six different teams over the last three years.