Dela Cruz, Thompson, Bright figure in 3-way NCAA MVP race

 Perpetual Help's dynamic duo of Bright Akhuetie and Earl Scott Thompson and San Beda's Arthur dela Cruz are frontrunners in the NCAA MVP race. File Photos

MANILA, Philippines -- This early, the Most Valuable Player race is fast shaping up a three-cornered fight among San Beda's Arthur dela Cruz and Perpetual Help's dynamic duo of Bright Akhuetie and Earl Scott Thompson.

Dela Cruz, playing his last season before he turns pro, currently leads the league in the MVP derby with a player average value (PAV) of 68.33, barely ahead of Akhuetie and Thompson, who were at second and third with 68.25 and 65.50, respectively.

Dela Cruz, who has won multiple champions with the San Beda Cubs, Ateneo Eagles and Lions combined, is the only player who is in the top five of the points, rebounds and assists department with averages of 22.33 points (second), 14.67 boards (third) and 5.33 dimes (fifth) a game.

Akhuetie and Thompson, for their part, were the biggest reasons the Altas are on their best start in their long history with the league after racking up a league-best four victories for the solo lead.

Akhuetie, an 18-year-old 6-8 Nigerian rookie, leads the league in scoring with a 24.25-point norm and trails rebounding leader Allwell Oraeme of Mapua with 15.25 caroms while also averaging two assists, 1.25 steals and 1.25 blocks.

Thompson, who is also applying for this year's PBA rookie draft, has been a triple-double machine after registering two in four games this season and averaged 14 points, 12.25 boards and 9.25 assists.
And Perpetual Help Aric del Rosario was all praises of the hardworking pair.

"They're the heart and soul of this team, wherever they go, this team follows," said del Rosario of Akhuetie and Thompson in Filipino.

Interestingly, Akhuetie's countryman, 6-11 Princ e Eze, emerged as the third Perpetual Help player in the top 10 as he is currently at No. 9 with 46.33 PAV on account of his averages of 11.33 points, 9.33 rebounds and 2.67 blocks, which is second only to Oraeme's league-high 3.75 swats an outing.

Rounding up the top 10 were Oraeme (60.00), Arellano University's Jiovani Jalalon (50.75), Letran's Rey Nambatac (49.33), San Sebastian's Bradwyn Guinto (48.67), Letran's Mark Cruz (42.67) and Kevin Racal (42.00).

Meanwhile, La Salle-Greenhills' Ricci Rivero, a member of the national team that competed in the FIBA World 3x3 in Hungary last May, leads the juniors' MVP race with a 57.33 PAV, pacing Mapua's Jasper Salenga and Arellano U's Lars Sunga 53.75 and 53.50.

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