Former DLSU backcourt duo discuss their journey to basketball supremacy

As former team captains of the Green-and-White, Andrei Caracut and Kib Montalbo have moved on to the more challenging realms of Philippine basketball. Caracut currently hones his skills in the Alab Pilipinas squad under the tutelage of coach Jimmy Alapag, while Montalbo is a member of TNT KaTropa in the PBA. Last May 22, both guested on the CPT Crossover Podcast hosted by Inquirer Sports writer Cedelf Tupas and shared anecdotes about their lives before DLSU, reminisced the Mayhem days, and discussed the opportunities they have received after their respective UAAP stints.

Getting the break

During their high school days, Montalbo and Caracut were the focal points of offense on their teams. Their usage rate was at a high clip, and were relied on to carry out their teammates’ respective responsibilities. Caracut was the superstar of the San Beda Red Cubs program in the NCAA, while Montalbo was a stalwart in his hometown of Bacolod City. 

Initially, Montalbo was not supposed to commit to the Taft-based squad as another university had tried to recruit him before DLSU did. “Dapat talaga Ateneo ako. I trained with them for two months already, but something happened. [In DLSU], there was an opening in the point guard position, so I took it. Then, we won the championship [in my rookie year],” he explained.

(I was supposed to play for Ateneo.)

For Caracut, it was a “dream come true” to play for La Salle. Even while finishing his senior year with the Red Cubs, he had set his eyes on DLSU. “Dream ko talaga maglaro sa UAAP and sa DLSU. Ako pa yung nangungulit kay Ma kung ano na yung offer ng La Salle. Nakita ko si coach Juno [Sauler] nanunuod ng games ko nung nasa San Beda pa ako,” he shared.

(It has been my lifelong dream to play in the UAAP and for DLSU. I was even the one following up my mother on La Salle’s offer. Also, I saw coach Juno [Sauler] watching my games when I was still playing for San Beda.) 

The Taft experience

Playing for the Green Archers requires its own set of adjustments to deal with, as the former Lasallians shared during the podcast.

As Montalbo entered his early years in DLSU, he felt pressured while preparing for his rookie season. “I had to adjust [because] I felt the pressure, [though] lahat ng confidence na sa akin. Nung rookie season ko, I was raw—I was just fast and skinny—then the veterans guided and told me what to do,” he recalled.

(I had a lot of confidence.)

An injury suffered by one of their starting point guards meant bigger shoes to fill for Montalbo entering his sophomore year. “Na-injure si Thomas [Torres] nung second season, [so] I filled the role [of being] a defensive player.”

For Caracut, the roles and expectations for him as part of the DLSU squad shifted from season to season. “[During my] first year, gamit talaga ako, [then noong] second [year], limited yung minutes ko, pero tinanggap ko yung role ko [na] makakatulong sa amin manalo.” 

The athletes also discussed working with different players during their stay in Taft, with some notable names being Ben Mbala and Aljun Melecio. Most basketball enthusiasts would remember Mbala’s dominance and Melecio’s versatility and outside shooting. Montalbo added his insights on the matter, sharing, “Ben was the hardest worker on the team, ‘pag rebound niya takbo kaagad…[Si Melecio] ‘yung pinakamahirap depensahan. For me, siya ‘yung best point guard in the league.”

([Mbala] would start running immediately after a rebound. [Melecio] was the hardest to defend against.)

Later years

As they ended their stint playing for the Green Archers, both players set their sights on playing in the professional leagues. Montalbo first played for the Makati Super Crunch in the Metropolitan Basketball League in preparation for the PBA Draft, then was eventually drafted by TNT KaTropa. As for Caracut, he decided to play for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League. 

Montalbo disclosed that his decision to join the Makati Super Crunch was due to coach Cholo Villanueva, who also served as part of the Green-and-White’s coaching staff, being there “as a mentor” for him. One of his most memorable experiences while on the squad was his game-winner against the Pampanga Giant Lanterns. “May sinulat ako dito sa room ko that I want to be great. I practiced my shooting and my sister helped sa [shootaround]. After one week, naka game-winner ako,” Montalbo expressed.

(I wrote it down here in my room that I want to be great.)

Caracut then shared his thoughts about playing for Alab and utilizing his collegiate experience, “Yung pagsama ko sa Alab [ay] isa sa [mga] pinakamagandang decision na [nagawa] ko. Si coach Jimmy [Alapag] sobrang madaming binibigay na advice.”

With sports leagues on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Caracut added that he started uploading videos to YouTube in hopes of inspiring others, “Gumagawa ako ng vlog…sinasabi ko doon kung ano buhay ng isang student-athlete para maging motivation sa mga bata.”

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