STEVE Akomo is no stranger to De La Salle University’s Ben Mbala.
The 6’8″ Cameroonians are familiar with each other’s game having met in a collegiate tournament in Cebu before.
Mbala went on to win the MVP award, leading the Green Archers to the UAAP title in one of the most dominant runs in UAAP basketball history.
But Akomo, described as a perfect match against his compatriot, was quick to downplay the hype.
“I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I’m just going to play my game. What [happened] in Cebu stays in Cebu,” Akomo told the Varsitarian.
The UAAP board on Thursday reversed itself and allowed Akomo to suit up for the Tigers despite completing only the first of the two-year residency for foreign players.
Akomo led UST with 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in the FilOil Cup last July.
Former PBA star Gerry Esplana, now a UST assistant coach, cited the importance of starting aggressively for the Tigers on both ends of the floor.
“Kung from the start, aggressive ka, iba ‘yung naibibigay mo sa laro kaysa kapag you’ll start the game flat,” he said.
Former Glowing Goldie Bobby Jose, another PBA veteran now with the UST coaching staff, said a taller lineup would complement its running game.
Team captain Marvin Lee and fellow point guards Oliver De Guzman and rookie Ben Kwawukumey are the only Tigers standing below six feet this year.
“Maganda ‘yung kanilang running game. Mabilis sila sa takbuhan, lalo na kapag fastbreak,” Jose said.
Akomo is among UST’s eight rookies who comprise half of the roster.
Kwawukumey, a Fil-Canadian who played in Toronto, will be Lee’s back-up point guard, bringing speed and stamina to UST’s fast paced offense.
During the Filoil Cup, transferees Cristian Garcia and Jordan Sta. Ana showed flashes of their scoring capabilities after averaging 8.9 and 8.1 points, respectively.
Garcia is a former Adamson Falcon while Sta. Ana is from the University of the East.
Former Tiger Cub captain Vaughn Soriano will also see action after a two-year hiatus due to personal commitments.
Below is the final roster of the Tigers this season:
Marvin Lee (5’8″) – point guard/captain
Joco Macasaet (6’5″) – power forward/center/co-captain
Jeepy Faundo (6’7″) – power forward/center
Zachary Huang (6’3″) – shooting guard
Oliver de Guzman (5’8″) – point guard
Justin Arana (6’7″) – power forward
Enrique Caunan (6’5″) – shooting guard
Regie Basibas (6’3″) – small forward
Steve Akomo (6’8″) – center
Ben Kwawukumey (5’7″) – point guard
Carlo Escalambre (6’0″) – shooting guard
Cristian Garcia (6’4″) – small forward
Jordan Sta. Ana (6’0″) – shooting guard
Vaughn Soriano (6’4″) – shooting guard
Martin Romero (6’0″) – shooting guard
Onzo Lorenzana (6’4″) – small forward
The Tigers will open their UAAP campaign on Sept. 10 against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 2 p.m., at the Mall of Asia Arena.