Former Batang Gilas stalwart and San Beda Red Lions commit Yukien Andrada talked to Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano about his mission to help bring the NCAA championship trophy back to Mendiola.
Yukien Andrada of the San Beda Red Lions
In front of a sellout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena last November 2019, the San Beda Red Lions Seniors’ basketball team saw their three-year NCAA reign come to a bitter end with a gut-wrenching 81-79 Game 3 loss to the Letran Knights.
Two of the top players in that team – NCAA Season 95 MVP Calvin Oftana and starting point guard Evan Nelle – are not with San Beda anymore. Oftana has made the jump to the PBA, while Nelle decided to transfer to La Salle to play in the UAAP. That rubs more salt into the wound of losing to their rivals, and it remains to be seen how exactly San Beda will bounce back from this disappointment.
Donald Tankoua, Evan Nelle and Calvin Oftana of the San Beda Red Lions. (Photo by Tristan Tamayo/Philippine Inquirer)
But the frustration wasn’t only felt by the seniors’ team. The pain of losing the championship trickled down to San Beda’s Juniors’ team, who were coming off a successful title run that same year. It was a tale of two different outcomes, but both the Red Lions and the younger Red Cubs share one goal: to uphold the championship culture in San Beda.
That’s exactly how Yukien Andrada, an incoming freshman for the Red Lions, felt when his older comrades lost to Letran in 2019. Yukien, the 17th-ranked prospect coming out of high school, was a key cog in the Red Cubs squad that defeated the Lyceum Pirates for the NCAA Season 95 juniors’ crown.
In an exclusive interview with Dribble Media, Yukien revealed the main reason why he decided to stay in San Beda after his fruitful high school career.
“We want the championship back in our house again. Babawiin namin ang trono. Yun ang reason kung bakit ako at yung iba kong teammates from Red Cubs ay nag-decide na mag-stay sa Beda.
Ibabalik namin ang trophy sa Mendiola. Yun talaga ang goal namin.”
Yukien is the younger brother of Yutien Andrada, who most recently played for the Alaska Aces in the PBA. As many of you would expect, Yukien first became interested in basketball when he first watched his older brother play. Yutien suited up for the San Sebastian Staglets, before he played college ball in La Salle.
Yutien Andrada played college ball for La Salle. (Photo by Joaqui Flores/DLSU Sports)
Yukien says that he was amazed that his kuya was playing in that high level of competition, and that motivated him to also dive deep into basketball.
“Nasa Grade 1 pa lang ako noon, nagustuhan ko na yung basketball. Nakikita ko kasi mga kuya ko na naglalaro dito sa amin. Then napapanood ko si kuya Yutien maglaro sa NCAA noong high school pa lang siya.
Namangha ako na yung kuya ko naglalaro sa ganoong kataas na level ng basketball. Kaya naisip ko na gusto ko din ma-experience yun.”
It never got to the point that there will be some kind of “sibling rivalry” between Yukien and Yutien. Yukien even said that he would always ask questions to his kuya, especially on how he could improve on defense.
“During our championship season noong 2019, nagtatanong ako lagi kay kuya (Yutien) kung paano ako lalo mag-improve sa defense. Ngayon naman na may pandemic at puro home workouts lang tayo, pinapakita niya sa akin kung paano mag-workout ang isang pro player.
Yung mga ginagawa niya na routines sa PBA, tinuturo niya sa akin. Natutulungan niya ako palagi.”
But unlike his older brother, Yukien chose a path that led him to San Beda. It was in 2017 when schools like La Salle-Greenhills, National University and San Sebastian tried to recruit him to play high school ball for them.
Yukien was already so close to playing for NU, but two separate circumstances eventually paved the way for him to join the Red Cubs.
“Right after a try-out I attended with La Salle-Greenhills, I was recommended to also try for the Batang Gilas squad. During that time, yung assistant coach ng Batang Gilas ay head coach ng Red Cubs so ni-recruit din niya ako na maglaro sa San Beda.
Actually, dapat sa NU na ako maglalaro noon kaso sobrang late ko na mag-enroll doon kaya hindi na ako napayagan. Yung Beda naman pinagbigyan pa ako kahit late enrollment na.
Pero noong nasa Beda na ako, never ko naman na naisipan pa na lumipat ng NU or sa ibang schools. Wala na ako doubts kasi napamahal na din ako sa teammates ko and sa buong San Beda community.”
Yukien would not only make his mark in the local stage, but he was also able to suit up for Batang Gilas. The 6-foot-5 youngster was part of the Kai Sotto-led Batang Gilas squad that competed during the FIBA Under-17 World Cup last 2018.
Yukien emphasizes that a huge part of his individual development came from his experience in international competition. He didn’t just improve his skills, but he also gained a stronger mindset and approach on the court.
“Sobrang laking tulong ng experience ko sa Gilas kasi madami talaga matututunan from international competition. Madaming mas matatangkad at mas mabibilis. Nabigyan kami ng mas mataas na kumpiyansa, lalo na noong pagbalik namin sa mother teams namin. Sobrang thankful ako sa opportunity na ma-represent ko yung bansa sa isang international level na competition.”
Yukien (wearing jersey number 12) with his Batang Gilas teammates in 2018. (Photo via FIBA)
His Batang Gilas experience and his contributions to the success of the Red Cubs eventually paid dividends in his individual accolades. In the final rankings that NBTC released last year, Yukien was listed as the 17th-best basketball prospect coming out of high school.
Yukien is in that list along with his three other teammates (Rhayyan Amsali, Justine Sanchez, Tony Ynot), all of whom have committed to playing for the San Beda seniors’ team. While it’s true that being recognized as one of the country’s top young players is something that he did not expect, Yukien says that he will work hard to prove that he rightfully belongs in that special list.
“Hindi ko expected na makakasama ako sa mga top recruits. Sobrang saya kasi parang from out of nowhere, nag-bloom yung career ko lalo noong last season ko sa Red Cubs.
Nakakatuwa pero syempre may pressure din na kasama yun. Top recruit ka so kailangan mag-perform ka din. Yung worth mo dapat i-prove mo yun palagi sa court.”
Going back to his mission to help bring back the NCAA championship to Mendiola, Yukien says that San Beda’s decorated history will serve as a motivation for him and the team. He points out to the fact that the team’s morale actually goes up after a loss.
“Iba kasi sa Beda. Iba yung pride namin. Mahirap talaga tanggapin kapag natalo ka. Pero hindi kami yung mag-mumukmok lang dahil natalo.
After ng isang game na nauwi sa talo, focus talaga kami sa mga maling nagawa namin. Yung mga susunod na training namin todo buhos talaga yung effort kapag galing kami sa pagkatalo. Hindi kami susuko hanggang sa hindi kami nakakabawi doon sa team na tumalo sa amin.”
Yukien may still be a young man entering his first year in college, but he already knows how to zero in on his goals, and focus on the more important things in his life. As a fitting end to our conversation with him, Yukien provided a piece of advice for aspiring athletes who also want to make their mark in a high level of competition.
“First and foremost, always trust in God’s plan. Siya yung magbibigay sayo ng strength and wisdom na kailangan mo.
Sa pagiging atleta, you have to make a lot of sacrifices. Malalayo ka sa family mo. Mababawasan yung oras mo sa mga gala kasama ang mga kaibigan. Dagdag mo pa na dapat disiplinado ka sa katawan mo kasi yan ang puhunan mo. Ganoon talaga. You have to be committed sa training mo and sa studies.
If you want to be great at something, you have to make all those sacrifices.”