Another year of the UAAP is upon us, and with Season 85 comes new calls to be answered.
Whether it be the UP Fighting Maroons hoping to keep at it, or the Ateneo Blue Eagles and La Salle Green Archers determined to come back from bitter defeats.
Whether it be the FEU Tamaraws, Adamson Soaring Falcons, and NU Bulldogs out to make things interesting, or the UST Growling Tigers and UE Red Warriors having nowhere to go but up.
Ahead of the start of Season 85 on Oct. 1, we take a closer look at the players with the most urgent calls to be answered.
ADAMSON SOARING FALCONS: Joem Sabandal, guard
UAAP Season 84 averages: 7.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists
2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup averages: 10.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 steals
We already know what the Soaring Falcons are getting from Jerom Lastimosa. Today's best point guard in college will set up his teammates in the early-going and then take charge when it matters most. What we don't know just yet, however, is who'll step up to be his running mate.
It could be workhorse big Cedrick Manzano. It could even be returning versatile wing AP Manlapaz.
For Adamson's present and future, however, this has to be Joem Sabandal's time to shine. The 5-foot-11 guard already shares the backcourt with Lastimosa -- and will have to continue proving to be capable and confident when he's given a turn at running the show.
Do that, and Sabandal will not only be Lastimosa's partner-in-crime, the former will also be the latter's unquestioned heir apparent.
ATENEO BLUE EAGLES: Dave Ildefonso, wing
UAAP Season 84 averages: 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists
The only remnants from the Blue Eagles' last championship in 2019 are BJ Andrade, Geo Chiu, Chew Daves, and Ange Kouame.
Make no mistake, however, they aren't going anywhere, especially if Dave Ildefonso does what's expected of him: bounce back big-time from a disappointing showing in last season's finals.
After norms of 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in the elimination round, the 6-foot wing struggled against UP and averaged 6.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and, most impactfully, 4.7 turnovers in his first championship round in the seniors level. With all the tools to be a go-to guy, his hands got, all of a sudden, cuffed by the likes of Harold Alarcon and Zavier Lucero.
With no more SJ Belangel and Gian Mamuyac, and with Kouame still on the road to recovery from a knee injury, the call to become, truly, Ateneo's next man up has just gotten louder for Ildefonso.
FEU TAMARAWS: L-Jay Gonzales, guard
UAAP Season 84 averages: 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals
2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup averages: 9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steals
It's a shame that we only got the L-Jay Gonzales-RJ Abarrientos one-two punch for one season in the seniors level.
Even more so for the Tamaraws, who actually witnessed those two lead their high school program to a championship. Abarrientos took care of the scoring and highlights, as he's wont to do. Gonzales took care of everything -- and anything -- else.
That version of Gonzales has to be there game in and game out for FEU now he's their one and only lead guard. He already proved he can do that in Filoil, especially with a 13-point, nine-assist, nine-rebound performance in their semifinals win against La Salle.
If that Russell Westbrook clone -- the world-destroying, do-it-all Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook, that is, and not so much the lost Los Angeles Lakers edition - shows up, then the green and gold will still have a golden opportunity to keep their playoff streak well and alive.
LA SALLE GREEN ARCHERS: Mark Nonoy, guard
UAAP Season 84 averages: 6.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists
2022 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup averages: 10.0 points, 2.7 steals, 1.3 assists
2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup averages: 6.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals
Once upon a time, Mark Nonoy was right up there among the best young talents in all the Philippines.
In high school, his name was mentioned in the same breath as Kai Sotto's. Then in his first season in college, he turned in a Rookie of the Year campaign as a key cog in UST's Cinderella run to the finals, where they ultimately bowed to Ateneo.
Since transferring to La Salle, though, things haven't been the same. Expected to form a formidable backcourt with Evan Nelle, the 5-foot-8 lefty scorer instead found himself coming off the bench, getting irregular minutes.
There are games here and there when he shows he can still turn it on, and the Green Archers are hoping those actually become fair expectations if they truly are to challenge for the finals, and even the championship.
LA SALLE GREEN ARCHERS: Kevin Quiambao, big
2022 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup averages: 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals
2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup averages: 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists
After being one of the few bright spots for Gilas Pilipinas, will Kevin Quiambao live up to the hype for the Green Archers?
If we'd have to bet on it, we'd have to say yes. The 6-foot-8 modern big has long been primed and prepared for the big leagues, and his Nikola Jokic-like game may very well be the shot in the arm his new team needs to get over the hump.
We actually already saw all that happening in Filoil, where they wound up as semifinalist, and in the PBA D-League, where they won it all.
That doesn't mean, however, that it'll come easy. Quite the opposite, actually, as not only will he have to rise to his lofty billing, he'll also have to deal with being the ready-made replacement for La Salle great Justine Baltazar. Again, Quiambao can -- and will -- do it, but the pressure cooker has just been turned on, for real.
NU BULLDOGS: Steve Nash Enriquez, guard
UAAP Season 84 averages: 3.0 points, 1.0 rebounds
2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup averages: 9.7 points, 4.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals
Just like that, Steve Nash Enriquez went from third-string point guard to, essentially, face of the franchise.
With the Bulldogs losing Enzo Joson to graduation and Janjan Felicilda to transfer, head coach Jeff Napa simply turned to his 5-foot-9 incoming second-year guard and told him it was his time.
And well, Enriquez didn't waste time proving his worth, earning MVP honors in the 2022 Universities and Colleges Basketball League which National U won and then energizing another title run in Filoil.
This is his show to run now, and as long as he continues to live up to his namesake, then the blue and gold look like they have their best point guard since Gelo Alolino.
UE RED WARRIORS: Harvey Pagsanjan, guard
UAAP Season 84 averages: 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists
2022 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup averages: 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists
For the second straight season, the Red Warriors will only go however far Harvey Pagsanjan takes them.
Even more so now he's their undisputed top gun, with all due respect to Paranada brothers Niko and Kyle, as Clint Escamis packed up to go back to Mapua University.
The good news is that the 6-foot combo guard actually knows a thing or two about being Option A -- he made a name for himself as the shining star for Hope Christian High School, after all.
While scoring, whether through perimeter shooting or paint slashing, will always be there, it's high time for Pagsanjan to round out his game and make plays for his teammates. When that happens, Pagsanjan will be worthy of the title King Warrior, and UE may just turn into giant-killers.