NCAA Juniors MVP Gozum joins UP Fighting Maroons
By Erel Cabatbat
Now it can be revealed.
Reigning NCAA Season 93 Juniors Most Valuable Player Will Gozum is going back home to play for the UP Fighting Maroons next season.
The prized former Mapua Red Robin joins a formidable UP squad that many believe is now a legitimate title contender after missing the Final Four by a single victory the last two seasons.
Sources say UP has been in contention for Gozum’s services as early as December last year.
The same sources confirmed that the most sought recruit finally committed to play for the Maroons last week, ending months of speculation as to where the 6’-6” Gozum would play college ball.
The towering Gozum, who initially played for the UP Integrated School, averaged 13.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 assists in helping Mapua finished the eliminations with a 13-5 win loss slate in his final year as a Red Robin.
With Gozum’s acquisition, the Fighting Maroons now have big man and former NCAA Seniors MVP Bright Akhuetie, UAAP Season 80 Seniors Rookie of the Year Juan Gomez de Liano, and returning stalwarts Paul Desiderio, Jun Manzo, and Javier Gomez de Liano on their fold.
Gozum will reunite with the De Liano brothers, his former UPIS teammates, at the state university.
UP has been relentless in its recruiting program the past few years in a bid to end a title drought in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
The signing of Gozum is the latest surprise in a series of swoops by the Diliman-based squad to land top and emerging talents from the juniors division.
Aside from his offense, Gozum is expected to bolster UP’s defense specially inside the paint.
Opponents now will have to contend with Gozum’s shot blocking prowess which the Fighting Maroons lacked last season with only Ibrahim Outtara and Noah Webb averaging at least one block a game.
Gozum’s size will also help Outtara and Paul Desiderio in the rebounding department. Outtara and Desiderio normed 11 and six rebounds respectively last season.
The UP Fighting Maroons last won the crown in 1986 when a squad led by Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc, Eric Altamirano and Ramil Cruz went all the way up to the pinnacle of UAAP basketball.