Every kid from every generation has their own idol. These idols serve as role models to children and provide inspiration for them to believe in themselves to chase their dreams.
In the Philippines, you can argue that college basketball is a bigger deal for fans compared to the professional league. College basketball gives fans some sort of connection with the team and players while the PBA operates around corporate-owned teams that, which makes it hard for people to connect with. And there is no bigger collegiate league in the country right now than the UAAP.
Here, we list down seven of the most iconic UAAP players in recent memory, also known as the generation of millennials:
Chris Tiu, Ateneo de Manila University
Chris Tiu was a two-time Mythical Five member. In his final playing year, Tiu led the Blue Eagles to the first championship of the school’s five-peat with his steady playmaking and clutch scoring. But with regards to his popularity, all of these achievements can only come in second to his ridiculously good looks. You can talk to anyone who’s been a UAAP fan since that time and everyone of them would say that Chris Tiu is the only UAAP player ever who had girls from the other UAAP schools screaming every time he was introduced in a game. His basketball skills were only the icing on the cake.
With various endorsement deals, commercials, and tv shows, Chris Tiu remains very popular up to this day. Despite playing in the UAAP before the boom of social media, he is nonetheless the most followed active PBA player across all social media platforms.
James Yap, University of the East
This pick is for the “older” millennials. James Carlos A. Yap was a big reason for the revival of the UE Men’s basketball program in the early 2000’s. Although his stacked Red Warriors teams never made it to the Finals, Yap was one of the biggest stars during his time due to his high-scoring exploits. He was a two-time Mythical Five member and the Season 65 MVP.
Ben Mbala, De La Salle University
The only non-Filipino on this list, Ben Mbala is arguably the most dominant player in modern UAAP history. Although he only played for two seasons, the big Cameroonian surely made his mark on the league. He won back-to-back MVPs in both years while also leading the Green Archers to the title in Season 79. More importantly, his stint in the UAAP raised awareness regarding racial discrimination prevalent in the country today.
Mac Cardona, De La Salle University
The man known as “Captain Hook” is one of the most colorful characters the UAAP has ever seen. With his playful antics, eligibility issues, and unorthodox style of play – particularly his one-handed push/hook shot which he could pull off from anywhere at any given time – Cardona ensured that he didn’t make many friends in the UAAP outside of the DLSU community. Despite all those, he still had a very successful UAAP career.
Cardona won Rookie of the Year in Season 64. He was also a part of the Mythical Five in Season 67, the same season wherein he won a second championship with the Green Archers and was named Finals MVP.
Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., National University
As a three-star high school recruit in the United States and as a son of one of the most successful imports in PBA history, Bobby Ray Parks, Jr.’s decision to play college ball in the UAAP was very much talked about in local hoops circles. That he chose to play for the NU Bulldogs, one of the UAAP’s perrennial bottom-feeders, only added to the intrigue.
Parks, Jr. only played three seasons for the Bulldogs, during which he won Rookie of the Year, three Mythical Five selections, and back-to-back MVPs for Seasons 74 and 75. He never made it to the Finals, but he was successful in leading the revival of the NU Men’s basketball program – they went on to win the championship the very next season after his departure and have been regular Final Four contenders since.
Arwind Santos, Far Eastern University
Arwind Santos is one of the most dominant and decorated UAAP players in history. He was a Rookie of the Year, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time Mythical Five member, a two-time MVP, a two-time Finals MVP, and a three-time champion*. He helped end a six-year title drought for the Tamaraws, but his departure led to a 10-year title drought.
Arwind Santos is one of the few players who has a legitimate claim to be the GOAT in UAAP history.
Kiefer Ravena, Ateneo de Manila University
We can probably attribute the increased attention to UAAP Jrs. basketball and young prospects in recent years to Kiefer Ravena. Dubbed as “The Phenom,” Ravena’s basketball career has been under the public’s watchful eye since his high school days. He is arguably the most hyped local prospect we have seen in the country. Suffice to say, he has lived up to the hype.
Ravena was a Rookie of the Year, a three-time Mythical Five member, a two-time MVP, and a two-time champion. His scoring prowess, clutch play, and mature all-around game, made him one of the most marketable athletes in the country even at such a young age.