MANILA, Philippines – In basketball, an MVP is supposed to have very few weaknesses to his game, if any at all.
And on Saturday afternoon, November 24, UP big man Bright Akhuetie intended to keep it that way.
That included hiding an untimely illness from everyone, including his own teammates, heading into their do-or-die Final Four game against the twice-to-beat Adamson Soaring Falcons.
Akhuetie decided to just fight through it, and incredibly, still delivered the huge game-winner for a 73-71 UP escape over the stunned Falcons.
EARLIER: Mythical Five connection. Juan Gomez de Liaño finds a wide-open Bright Akhuetie for the game-winning layup! #UAAPSeason81 @RapplerSports pic.twitter.com/vO3Y4xFDKo — JR Isaga (@JRnalistic) November 24, 2018
Only after then did he divulge what he was going through, which was most likely a fever or some flu-like symptoms.
“I was really, really cold. I was shivering. It [came] last night,” he said after the game. “I didn’t want to tell them that will bring their spirits down.”
Akhuetie tried his best to hide it, but it was still evident after finishing with only 6 points and 4 turnovers on top of 14 rebounds.
“[My teammates] knew about it during the game,” he continued. “They were asking me, are you okay? I said yeah, I’ll keep going.”
Had they not won, Akhuetie would have wrapped up his MVP season with his lowest-scoring output yet in his first season.
“I don’t want to be in the situation where I tell them that I can’t do it and their spirits will go down and I won’t be able to play,” he said. “So I was just there, doing my job on the rebounding, not forcing anything, not trying to score offensively because it was really hard for me.”
“I was trying to catch my breath, dealing with the cold and it was just too much,” he continued. “So I can’t tell them that I won’t be able to play, it’s gonna be bad. I just psyched myself, whatever it is, stay there and lead these guys.”
Come Wednesday in their next do-or-die against Adamson at the Araneta Coliseum, Akhuetie assured that he would be back in perfect form.
“I should be better before then. All I just have to do is get enough rest now and I'll be good,” he said.
With UP now above and beyond their original goals, Akhuetie is just living in the moment.
“We're sharing this already,” he said. “The 21 years [after the last Final Four], the first game, and the second game. Yeah, we will [claim the second game]. As long as we come out hard the same way, we'll get it by God's grace.” – Rappler.com