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Appreciating UST's Kevin Ferrer

Kevin Ferrer (#14) gestures to the crowd during University of Santo Tomas' first round conquest of the University of the Philippines | Philstar.com File/Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines – After watching UST's Kevin Ferrer on Sunday, I couldn't but help and think of his days as a Tiger Cub where he was known more for his scoring especially from three-point range and from those years when some pegged him as a rugged player who liked to taunt foes.

Whether those were the instructions of his coach or not, this year’s model of Kevin Ferrer is a player who has figured out how the game can be easy for him.

The next Arwind Santos — someone who is tall, lanky, mobile and a two-way player?

It is entirely possible.

In Bong dela Cruz’ system, it’s an equal opportunity offense. The ball doesn’t need to go through Ferrer or even Karim Abdul. And I guess that is what I enjoy most when watching the UST Growling Tigers. They just move that ball around. What I like about their system is everyone is a threat. With every player a threat, that makes Ferrer even more dangerous as he doesn't mind passing the ball. He doesn't need to take shots unless he has to. 

Yet at the heart of it is Ferrer. Much has been said about how Ed Daquioag has kicked up his game to a whole new level. No argument there. But Ferrer does more.

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Last season (and I wrote about this), Ferrer embraced the leadership role. He was more vocal. This year, he is more demonstrative on the court. Especially on defense. 

Against UP, he pulled newbie Mario Bonleon to a proper position on defense while keeping an eye on the Fighting Maroons spread out offense (to allow Paul Desiderio or Diego Dario to attack inside). During another play, he gestured to Renzo Subido to come out and get the ball and not wait for the pass. In another, Jett Manuel blew past his man only to be met by Ferrer up high. Manuel threw up a prayer that didn’t hit anything. 

As for his fellow veterans, the way he passes that ball to Louie Vigil or Ed Daquioag without looking.... that is a keen understanding of his teammates and the game.

Seeing how UST lined up on defense (a floating man-zone that sometimes would go to a 1-3-1), Kevin would slide behind Karim Abdul who would do his best to disrupt those taking jumpers from the top of the key as a secondary line of defense. He would also haul down those rebounds. This of course, wasn't the first time, UST coach Bong dela Cruz utilized Ferrer this way. He's done it time and again including last season.

The result -- 29 huge points and 14 rebounds to go with 3 assists and 1 steal. And that brings up his season averages to 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 32 minutes an outing. 

It has been two years now since Ferrer has played that point-forward position with aplomb. Before he used to wait for his teammates to give him the ball. Now he gives them the ball, directs traffic, and doesn't have to take a shot. And there’s the matter of his defense. His length, mobility, athleticism, and wingspan allows him to guard pretty much every position on the court.

“Kevin,” gushed Bong dela Cruz. “Lahat ng tao yung puntos nakikita. Kevin gives you much more than that. he gives UST a chance to win every game.”

Karim Abdul weighed in his own thoughts although it wasn’t much: “Kevin… is Kevin.”

The graduating center laughed then added, “You know what he can do. The question is, ‘what can he not do?’"

“The MVP Award means nothing to me,” Ferrer said in Filipino. “The goal is a championship. I want one. Since high school, I have been denied that. Hopefully, we can make a lot of people happy.”

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