ON the same day they announced they were leaving University of Santo Tomas, speedy playmaker and reigning Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy and wingman Deo Cuajao hopped on a plane and flew to Davao City together with Team Phenom Sports president Jackson Chua last Monday.
A day after, Nonoy and Cuajao’s transfer to La Salle was signed, sealed, and delivered.
New Green Archers chief backer and presidential son-in-law Atty. Manases “Mans” Carpio rolled out the red carpet for the squad’s two new prized additions.
“Through the years, La Salle has become one of the biggest and proudest collegiate basketball programs in the country,” said Carpio.
“My goal is to open the doors of the school to more homegrown players who cannot afford to study there through sports. That is the true meaning of the Animo spirit,” he added.
Carpio, a La Salle alumnus who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in 1998, played a huge part in recruiting Nonoy and Cuajao, as well as former National University Bullpup standout Kevin Quiambao.
The 5-foot-8 Nonoy averaged 11.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in the last UAAP cage wars.
UST’s fate is still hanging in the air amid allegations that former coach Aldin Ayo and his players breached the government’s stringent COVID-19 health protocols when they held a bubble training in Capuy, Sorsogon City from mid-June to August.
With their future uncertain as Growling Tigers, Nonoy and Cuajao’s move should be understandable.
Ayo stepped down as UST coach last Sept. 4 and was handed an indefinite ban from all league events and activities by the UAAP last Sept. 9.
Former skipper CJ Cansino, who joined University of the Philippines, star forward Rhenz Abando, guard Brent Paraiso, and big man Ira Bataller have also left the team.
Abando, Paraiso, and Bataller moved to defending NCAA champion Letran, while reserve guard Jun Asuncion went to Mapua University.
With the exodus of the UST players, reigning MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo, shooters Sherwin Concepcion and Miguel Pangilinan, and big man Dave Ando are the only remnants of last year’s squad.
Nonoy, who won the UAAP juniors’ MVP plum in 2018 as a Tiger Cub, and Cuajao will have to serve the league-required one-year residency, along with another blue-chip recruit in former San Beda University standout Evan Nelle, before they could suit up in the 84th season.
Nonoy and Cuajao are still eligible to play for three years for the Taft-based five.