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Road to España: Forthsky Padrigao embraces new chapter with UST

Former Ateneo star Forthsky Padrigao shares how he ended up in UST, admitting he had prior talks with other UAAP schools and even a Korean Basketball League team that didn’t pan out following a background check

MANILA, Philippines – Gratitude was the overwhelming sentiment that collegiate basketball playmaker Forthky Padrigao felt as University of Santo Tomas officially announced his transfer on Saturday, September 30.

The former Ateneo Blue Eagles star said he’s happy there’s a school that accepted him “despite everything that has happened.”

“UST gave me clearance and assurance that they have a plan for me and we both want to work it out,” Padrigao said of his relationship with UST during an exclusive interview with Rappler on the opening day of UAAP Season 86 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“I think we’re aligned with what we want to happen,” the MVP runner-up last season added.

Padrigao left the school he called home since high school  amid academic and personal turmoil in August, paving the way for a new chapter that will see his final two years of UAAP playing eligibility in a Growling Tigers uniform beginning Season 87 in 2024.

The 21-year-old already came out to support UST on Saturday, but the Tigers dropped their game against UE. He also stayed on to watch the second contest of the double-header featuring his former team, where defending champion Ateneo surprisingly got blown out by National University.

Before España: Teams in the mix

Padrigao received initial interest from the Samsung franchise in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) following Ateneo’s championship-winning campaign in Season 85, but no further development escalated after the team did further research on his background and reputation.

After his departure from Ateneo, Padrigao received preliminary interest from De La Salle University for a possible transfer before the latter withdrew from further discussions, according to trusted sources.

In addition to UST there was also interest from San Beda University and University of the Philippines to open their doors for the student-athlete seeking a new home, but no official offers were ultimately sent to Padrigao’s camp.

According to Padrigao, Red Lions head coach Yuri Escueta got in touch with him and his family to seek a sit-down meeting, although one never materialized due to schedule conflicts as San Beda’s basketball team was in California for offseason training ahead of NCAA Season 99.

Padrigao was also keen to stay in the UAAP.

There was a split among the UP men’s basketball team decision-makers on the possibility of adding Padrigao to the roster, according to trusted sources.

Some were concerned of the message it would send to the Fighting Maroons’ community – many of whom were passionately outspoken against his prior actions in the games and online – and to the incoming recruits, particularly point guards Ernest Felicilda and Jared Bahay.

There were those who felt Padrigao’s addition would further strengthen UP’s pool of talent, in part because of his close relationship with head coach Goldwyn Monteverde dating back to Padrigao’s early high school career in Adamson.

Padrigao said he was also open to fly to Bahay’s hometown in Cebu to alleviate any reservations he might have had about competing for playing time and establish himself as a veteran guide for the incoming prospect.

But there was the condition that if Padrigao was to become a Fighting Maroon, it would have to be a unanimous yes from the UP management decision-makers, which did not happen.

There was also the idea of Padrigao enrolling as a regular student at UP rather than as a student-athlete through the Varsity Athletic Admission System (VAAS), which would have given him an entire academic year to improve his grades and undergo counseling for his past actions. In this case a spot in UP’s Season 87 roster would still be possible, but not guaranteed.

Padrigao then focused his attention towards UST, where he was given an environment to possibly redeem himself.

“I enlightened them about what really happened and what’s not true. They’re willing to help me better myself, to be a man,” he told Rappler.

An immediate connection

Padrigao started practicing with the Growling Tigers early this week and said he didn’t have a difficult time building immediate relationships with his new teammates because of their roots in different provinces in the Philippines.

“For me, they’re easy to be with because we’re from the provinces. There’s an immediate connection. They’re fun to be around, practices are good. So far, so good,” said the Zamboanga native, who is also expected to undergo counseling while enrolled as a Thomasian.

“Mentally I’m in a better position right now. I feel light. My mindset is clear and not clouded. I’m thankful that there’s a school that still believes in my talent and what I can provide.”

In Season 85 Padrigao averaged 11 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.4 steals a contest.

His debut as a Growling Tiger will coincide with another transferee in former UE stalwart Kyle Paranada, providing UST with a dynamic one-two punch in the guard rotation. According to Padrigao, his soon-to-be running mate is a “straight-up hooper.”

As far as winning a championship or making the Final Four with UST, Padrigao says he’s taking a “one game at a time” approach.

“What my mindset was at Ateneo, that’s what I’ll bring to UST,” he added.

When UST officially announced the transfer of Padrigao on Saturday, one of the first messages he received was from former teammate and now Ateneo co-captain Chris Koon.

The text was simple and straight to the point: “You’re going to do big things, good luck with your commitment.”

That’s what Padrigao hopes to accomplish. –