Having a foreign player in today’s UAAP is more of a necessity rather than a luxury. That’s why it’s not a surprise that all member universities have recruited a player with no Filipino blood.
More often than not, they acquire big imports to shore up their frontcourt defense. But there are cases wherein wing men such as Rob Bornancin, Kirk Long, and Zion Laterre operate in the perimeter.
Say what you want about foreign basketball athletes in the UAAP, but they are here to stay. Thus, here’s a salute to the best collegiate players in the league with no Pinoy lineage.
He was the first notable foreign basketball player in the UAAP for he brought championship glory to the Far Eastern University. In his own narration, the former US Marine could have played for the other universities if only they had an athlete’s quarters. FEU agreed to his condition and added him to their roster even if they haven’t seen him play. And boy did this Medical Technology student repay the gamble the Tamaraws made.
Former teammate Glenn Capacio shared that Williams was not athletically gifted. However, his physical brand of ball allowed him to collar rebounds and second chance points at will. Williams won the 1979 and 1981 UAAP basketball titles against UST and UE, respectively. He was also part of the hailed 1980 championship team by virtue of a 12-0 elimination round sweep. But his place in the league’s history will forever be cemented by becoming the first foreign student-athlete to be named UAAP Most Valuable Player back in 1981.
Try scoring against a 6’ 7” goal keeper.
That’s how Cameroonian Karim Abdul terrorized the opposition as the last line of defense for Dolphins United FC in Division Two of the now-defunct United Football League. He was also a menace on the hard court when he suited up for the University of Santo Tomas. In his rookie season, the walk-in posted averages of 12 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and one steal per contest. He was a vital cog to UST’s Final Four run in 2011, but they were eliminated by the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles.
Abdul muscled the Growling Tigers to consecutive UAAP Finals appearances in Seasons 75 and 76, but bowed to Ateneo and La Salle, respectively. He was able to complete his revenge against the Blue Eagles when they clinched the 2012 Philippine Collegiate Champions League Title and was named to the tournament Mythical Five.
He was also a UAAP Mythical Five selection in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Kiefer Ravena made a mad dash to the basket to send Ateneo to the championship round of UAAP Season 77, but Alfred Aroga had other plans. He shadowed ‘The Phenom’ and blocked his lay-up that would have spelled heartbreak for National University. Instead, the Cameroonian Aroga and the Bulldogs clinched the university’s first Senior Men’s Basketball crown in six decades.
In his rookie season, the soft-spoken Aroga was named Finals MVP with series averages of 16 points and 13 rebounds per battle against FEU. He saved his best when the title was on the line and gave an impressive 24-point, 18-board performance in Game Three. He went on to play two more seasons with NU before completing his bachelor’s degree in sports management.
In his first season with the Adamson Soaring Falcons, Papi Sarr led the squad to only three wins but played spoiler to La Salle’s Final Four hopes. A season after, he powered the San Marcelino-based ballers to their own Final Four stint. His imposing presence on the court was backed by his runner-up finish in the Most Valuable Player race. However, the double-double machine was far from over.
In his third season, he led the Franz Pumaren-coached club to its second consecutive Final Four berth via an 86-70 drubbing of the UP Fighting Maroons. He also finished fifth in the UAAP Season 80 MVP tilt with 63.1538 statistical points despite nursing a groin injury.
After a dismal six-point, nine-rebound outing during their elimination game against the Green Archers, Sarr will be back with a vengeance come Season 81.
It took a while before Benoit Mendzana Mbala was able to don the De La Salle jersey. But when he did, it was worth the wait. He first glowed in the collegiate basketball spotlight when he carried the Southwestern University Cobras to its first-ever Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Incorporated (CESAFI) title in 2012. To prove that the title was no fluke, he even scored 41 points in a PCCL game against NCAA powerhouse San Beda in the same year en route to a fourth-place finish.
A lengthy three-year residency period ensued before the athletic Cameroonian suited up for the Green Archers, but he was like a beast raring to pounce off the gates. He became the first foreign student-athlete since Williams to be named UAAP MVP and he led the Taft-based team to the title over rival Ateneo. Mbala got his second MVP nod in Season 80, but the Blue Eagles won in the Finals. Two years and two MVPs passed before he skipped his final year of eligibility to play as a pro in Mexico and France.
There’s no question that he’s a shoo-in on this list.