ATHLETIC University of Santo Tomas (UST) wingman Rhenz Abando has left the Growling Tigers’ camp and could join Colegio de San Juan de Letran at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The 22-year-old Abando’s departure from the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) school was confirmed by The Varsitarian, the official publication of UST, on Monday.

No reason was immediately given for his decision to leave but later on the day, Abando wrote on his Twitter page, “Thank you for your unending grace!” while on Instagram he wrote the same message but accompanied by a photo of UST’s Main Building.  

Also, reportedly to have left was big man Ira Bataller.

The departures were the latest offshoot of the “training bubble” in Sorsogon allegedly held by the UST men’s basketball team, which is currently the subject of an ongoing investigation by the UAAP and a government-created panel.

The investigating panel is looking into possible violations committed by the team of health and safety protocols put up by the government as part of mitigating measures against the spread of the coronavirus.

It has been reported that the Growling Tigers holed themselves up in Capuy, Sorsogon, hometown of coach Aldin Ayo, beginning in June as part of their preparation for UAAP Season 83 targeted to begin early next year.

As per existing regulations, sports activities, including training, are widely prohibited at this point of the pandemic.

Only professional leagues which sought approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) are allowed to hold modified training.

UST has conducted an internal investigation on the matter, the findings of which it has submitted to the UAAP and were set to be discussed with officials of the league, the Philippine Sports Commission, Games and Amusements Board, Department of Health, and Commission on Higher Education in an online meeting later on Tuesday.

Abando and Bataller joined erstwhile captain CJ Cansino and veteran Brent Paraiso in exiting UST. Cansino is now part of the University of the Philippines while Paraiso is still weighing his options.

Meanwhile, Abando is reportedly in talks to join the Letran Knights at the NCAA now that he is out of UST.

In Letran, La Union native Abando, who averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in his lone UAAP season last year, joins the reigning NCAA champion bannered by veteran floor general Fran Yu.

Abando, if he does decide to take his talent to Letran and the NCAA, will still have three playing years in the collegiate ranks as opposed to two years if he plays in the UAAP. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo