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UP snags Ateneo’s “Lebron” ahead of new UAAP campaign amid controversy

by Ron Poblete

THE transfer of basketball player Francis “Lebron” Lopez from Ateneo to UP is the talk of the town.

Chatter within the alumni groups of the two UAAP finalists, Ateneo and UP grew on social media after the controversial transfer of Lopez, Ateneo High School stalwart to UP in time for the upcoming UAAP Basketball tournament.

Rumors started to float around about the nature of his transfer after he announced his intentions to play for UP when he completes high school at Ateneo de Manila. 

 “My basketball path has been unpredictable the past two years as I finish my high school education. Life has thrown curveballs and a few distractions that have made me a stronger and better person,”  Lopez said in a statement. 

“UP is a great institution with a very good basketball program and management group. I know deep in my heart that the UP Nowhere to Go But UP Foundation will take care of me as a student and as an athlete.” he added.

Tamayo the agent?

The 6-foot-5 forward from Ateneo also attributed his decision to former Gilas Pilipinas teammate Carl Tamayo who recently left the Maroons and forgo his college education to move to Japan and play professionally. 

“Last month, he texted me on Viber to say, ‘Dito ka na sa UP.’ Then you know, I just decided that I wanna go to UP and here I am. I’m in UP now,” Lopez said in a video posted by UP Nowhere to Go foundation.

Lopez is coming in to help fill the gap in a UP team that lost three of its key players including Tamayo after losing to Ateneo in the UAAP basketball championship last season. 

He might be facing eligibility issues to play in college as he signed a professional contract for Overtime Elite in the United States. 

Although he didn’t play a single game for the Atlanta based league and joined Gilas to represent the Philippines in the 31st Southeast Asian games in Hanoi and the FIBA World Cup qualifier in the last two years. 

Expect the conversations on the alumni viber groups to rage on and become rife with “tsismis” and excitement in equal measure.

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