RJ Abarrientos hailed as 2022-2023 KBL Rookie of the Year

RJ Abarrientos is KBL’s Rookie of the Year (Ulsan Hyundai photo via SLAM Philippines Facebook)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

Filipino basketball sensation RJ Abarrientos cemented his name as the 2022-2023 Korean Basketball League (KBL) Rookie of the Year last March 30, 2023.

The former Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team point guard boosted his chances of winning the prestigious award after helping the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus clinch a playoff qualification.

Abarrientos immediately brought an impact to Ulsan despite playing as a young rookie floor general and averaged 13.6 points, 4.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals during his 51-game stretch with the KBL hoops club.

The product of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws proved to be Ulsan’s money man down the clutch stretch after bailing out the squad in several tightly-contested affairs during the mid-season.

Abarrientos edged co-Filipino Asian import Rhenz Abando for the award who registered nine points, 2.3 rebounds, and one assist per game in the regular season.

“This brings me a lot of confidence for my career. Just love here. Thank you for the love. To the fans, they send me a lot of love, on and off the court,” Abarrientos said during his acceptance speech.

Out of the 54 total regular season games Ulsan played, the five-foot-eleven point-guard tallied 34 double-digit scoring outings that helped his KBL club grab the fourth place heading into the quarterfinals.

Before signing a contract with the KBL, Abarrientos was contemplating if he will play out his remaining playing years with the Tamaraws and help them get out of their Final Four slump in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.

However, after former Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles superstar SJ Belangel grabbed the opportunity of playing overseas, Abarrientos immediately followed in his footsteps and formalized his contract last June 2022.

Abarrientos is still a member of the Gilas Pilipinas pool and might be available for duty if the KBL season ends next month.