UAAP skipper enjoys ‘dream stint’ in NZ

    TUFFIN: I’m progressing individually as a player.
    TUFFIN: I’m progressing individually as a player.

    WHAT he described as a “dream stint” with Taranaki in the New Zealand National Basketball League will only toughen up Far Eastern University skipper Kenneth Tuffin and do wonders for the Tamaraws when he returns to the squad.

    “It’s just me progressing individually as a player. You know, I’m doing whatever I can to help my team win and I’d always be like that,” said the Fil-New Zealander forward in The Prospects podcast.

    “It was a dream growing up for me to play here because I didn’t really know about the Philippines (back then). My dad used to take me to games as a kid, I used to play in Wellington state, and it’s pretty awesome to see those guys that were some sort of positive way I can go after high school if I was committed,” he added.

    The 6-fooot-4 Tuffin was tabbed 44th overall by the Mountainairs in the NBL Draft last June 15 and had to get the green light from FEU and the UAAP to suit up in the New Zealand semipro league.

    Tuffin intends to return to the Tams for his fifth and final year next season.

    With the health risks and uncertainties brought about by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the UAAP is eyeing to launch its 83rd season early next year.

    “Quite a relief to finally get out there. I was quite worried, you know, I’ve been training with the team and all of that and I’m in the starting group and all of that then my eligibility come up and make some waves there, I didn’t really know what’s gonna happen,” said Tuffin.

    “So, I was just waiting patiently on the decision of the UAAP board and thankfully they let me and understood I’ll play as an amateur and I won’t be able to lose my eligibility status so I’m thankful for that.”

    In his first two games for Taranaki, Tuffin, 23, has averaged 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

    Tuffin hopes to do the same for the Morayta-based crew next year.

    “Just like in FEU, whatever they need me to do to help the team be successful and put myself in a position which I know I can excel, I’m just trying to help the team I can,” he said.

    The Tams wound up with an 8-6 card in the last UAAP cage wars for third but were foiled by fourth-ranked University of Santo Tomas 71-81 in their stepladder semifinals battle.

    FEU lost guard Wendell Comboy, big man Barkley Ebona, and playmaker Hubert Cani due to graduation.

    Aside from the lefty Tuffin, the likes of guards L-Jay Gonzales and Xyrus Torres and prized new additions RJ Abarrientos and Nigerian slotman Emman Ojoula are expected to lead the Tams’ charge in their bid to win their first crown since 2015.