Maroon Quirkiness: The End of UP-Ethan Kirkness Affair

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Several years ago, a young kid from Australia caught the attention of the basketball scouts in the country. Just as Kai Sotto burst onto the national scene, another one was being talked about quietly and silently. His name is Ethan Kirkness. For a couple of years, he was pursued by a number of basketball programs in the country, as well as by SBP.  Last February however, news was out that the Fil-Australian prospect will no longer be joining the UP Fighting Maroons, and instead will focus on continuing his studies in Australia.  That ends the four-year saga of pursuing the 6-10 top prospect, whom many hoped will be one of the cornerstones of Philippine basketball, along with Kai Sotto and AJ Edu. Ethan’s decision will surely dampen the hopes of those who think he is willing to commit to play for the national team, at least for now.

Ethan caught the attention of some people almost seven years ago, a twelve years-old, hefty 6-foot-7 who visited the country with his parents. Two years later, in 2016, he was already slated to play for the SEABA U-16. He committed, but he reportedly got an offer to play in the US, and Ethan was unable to participate. Despite that, he was recruited by almost every top university and college here in the Philippines. Ethan’s camp was in talks with the National University, recruiting him to be a Bullpup. All the talks did not accomplish anything, and nothing happened. Ethan Kirkness remained in the land down under.

During those times, the UP Maroons were steadily making its way back to basketball relevance. In 2018, after recruiting the likes of Bright Akhuetie, Ricci Rivero, and Kobe Paras, the state university made a dramatic run, making the Final Four and upsetting the twice to beat Adamson Falcons in two thrilling games to make it all the way to the finals, only to bow down to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. They nearly made it again a year after, but they lost to UST Growling Tigers in sudden death, also in a thrilling fashion. The loss was definitely heartbreaking, but the future looks certainly bright for the top state university.

It is right after the end of UAAP Season 82 that news broke out that Ethan Kirkness committed to play for the Maroons. According to reports, Ethan’s family chose the UP Fighting Maroons “because of the academics.” Ethan Kirkness’ decision to commit to UP ended all speculations about his destination. The Fighting Maroons can continue building up for the future, and with Paras, Akhuetie, and the Gomez de Liano brothers still around, the future can come as quickly as possible. Even with the pandemic cancelling the UAAP Season 83, things are looking up for the University of the Philippines.

Apparently, the pandemic changed everything as far as Kirkness was concerned. Already eligible to play, the cancellation put everything to a halt, including the prospects of Ethan immediately playing for the state university. Then, on February 22, 2021, tiebreakertimes.com published a report saying that the prospect is no longer in the University of the Philippines. In fact, a report in another newspaper confirmed that Ethan is already in Australia since summer last year. Head coach Bo Perasol confirmed the reports. The uncertainty of the situation due to pandemic led to a breakdown in negotiations, and in the end, Ethan decided that it would be best for him to pursue his studies there in Australia.

The Fighting Maroons lost an important prospect, but this in no way derails their build up. Other prospects actually made their way to the lineup, even at the height of the negotiations to acquire Ethan. It includes, among others, UST’s CJ Cansino, former NU Bullpups standout Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano, as well as Malick Diouf and Joel Cagulangan. Ethan would have been a great, welcome addition. The development itself, however, will not impede on UP Fighting Maroons’s campaign in the coming UAAP Season 84.

As for Ethan, he will still remain a mystery. Though some were enamored by the Fil-Aussie prospect, the truth is no one is actually sure what he brings to the table. He made a number of commitments, the one in Gilas Youth included, but no commitment has been actually honored so far. No one actually knows what happened to his presumed stint in the US, which is the main reason he skipped his commitment to play in the Gilas Youth.  In the end, his family decided that training and pursuing his studies at home is the better option. Whether we can still see him ply his wares in the country, or don national colors in the international competition is anybody’s guess. For now, we can only wish him the best.

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