By Karl Batungbacal
Opening weekend sure was a doozy – La Salle almost beating the newly crowned champions, UE nearly ending their losing streak, and Ateneo looking very vulnerable for the first time in the Tab Baldwin era.
But for the UST community, they could very well be in the midst of Nic Cabanero’s on-court glow-up.
The sophomore guard logged the second-most minutes on the team (32:29) behind foreign student-athlete Adama Foye’s 36:05 and dropped big numbers in their season-opener against Adamson.
33 points on 72.2 percent shooting from the field.
That was the number of points Cabanero had after their win against the Soaring Falcons and it understandably made headlines. Big numbers for a sophomore guard on the first game of the season.
Cabanero exploded for a career-high 33 points on 72.2 percent from the field (13/18 shooting) was the number that made headlines and with good reason too.
Off the dribble blow-bys, finishing inside the paint with contact, and pull-up jimbos that would make Kevin Durant blush, “Habanero” Cabanero went deep into his bag of tricks.
Now I can admit that I didn’t catch all of it live (thanks, Saturday traffic), but I did witness the confidence he had in his dagger jumper to give UST a five-point cushion – which looked eerily similar to Devin Booker’s game-winner against the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Bubble.
A season ago, this 18-year-old kid was coming off fresh from an NCAA Juniors title run with the San Beda Red Cubs and averaged 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in his UAAP debut.
“Decent numbers for a rookie,” I said while doing my research.
Cabanero set out on a goal for himself and the Growling Tigers before Season 85 began: to win. He did exactly just that, but it’s also worth mentioning that they were lucky enough to get away unscathed from a Jerom Lastimosa explosion.
To expect Cabanero to drop 33 points a night for the entire season is almost as impossible as to expect the Philippines’ economy to stabilize anytime soon.
This performance is a double-edged sword, though. From here on out, “Yellow Cab” can expect defenses to collapse all over him and try to prevent him from getting a big game. That’s exactly when he needs to step up even more.
I’m still a few games away from fully believing in the hype, but he does have my attention from here on out.
Habanero. Yellow Cab. Regardless of what nickname one’s creative brain with too much time on their hands can come up with, this kid’s in for one hell of a season under head coach Bal David.
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