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Nowhere to go but up for Fighting Maroons

  • Written by Theodore P. Jurado
  • Published in Basketball
  • Read: 289

NOW coaching on his alma mater, coach Bo Perasol wants to bring a lot of positivity to University of the Philippines.

The Fighting Maroons simply wanted to improve their three-win output from last season as the UAAP men’s basketball tournament set to open this weekend.

“What we have in mind four months ago is how we can make a change dito sa perennial position ng UP,” said Perasol, who steered Ateneo for three seasons before crossing over to the other side of Katipunan.
   
“For us to do that, we need to overhaul our mindset. Ang dami mga binago namin sa mga practice sessions but any proof niyan would always be this coming season. Yung lagi positive result dapat ng isang program is winning. Mahirap pa rin iyon para sa amin,” he added.
   
The Maroons have a virtually intact roster from last season, with veterans Jett Manuel, Diego Dario, Paul Desiderio, Andrew Harris and Gelo Vito leading the way and Kyles Lao returning after missing last year’s campaign due to injury to fill in the void left by JR Gallarza and Agustini Amar.
   
“I’m just hoping na lumampas kami from three wins last season,” said Perasol, whose school has last won a UAAP title in 1986.
   
“We’ve been saying we want change for the last 30 years. We’re hoping we could start it with our players,” he added.
   
While UP looks like it’s out of the Final radar, this cannot be said on Adamson, University of the East and La Salle, which is tipped to win this Season 79.
   
Franz Pumaren, the author of the Green Archers’ five UAAP crowns, is returning to the collegiate scene, as is hoping to turn the Falcons from an also-ran to a Final Four contender.
    
“If you look at our lineup, we have eight rookies and eight veterans. For me, my veterans are classified as rookies,” said Pumaren.
   
“Hopefully, we can compete this year until the very end,” he added.
 
Adamson has a dominant big man in Papi Sarr, who can give double-double numbers at any given day, as well as holdovers Dawn Ochea, Christian Garcia and Jaydee Tungcab, transferee Terrence Muster, and rookies Robbie Manalang and Jerrick Ahanmisi.
   
Hoping to replicate what he did for the Archers, Pumaren knows that tough task ahead in making the Falcons as one of the elite teams in the league.
   
“That’s an entirely different scenario. When I took over during that time, La Salle has been consistent on being at No. 2. Basically, they have the materials they don’t have the right chemistry for a winning team. They are a veteran team so I made minor adjustment. During that time we also have pretty good players,” said Pumaren.
   
“Slowly we are picking up. I guess, if you based it from my comment of a start-up company, noong nag-IPO, medyo tumaas na presyo namin. We made it to the quarterfinals (of a summer league), which is according to my players is the highest ever,” he added.
 
Definitely, things look bright for Adamson, which last made it to the Final Four in 2011 under coach Leo Austria.
   
Like the Falcons, the Red Warriors are setting their sights nonetheless than a Final Four slot.
   
Skipper Paul Varilla believes on the capabilities of UE to end a long drought of non-Final Four appearance.
   
“You can expect us to have our trademark defense and expect us to bring our energy. You can expect us to show our coach’s trademark defense,” said Varilla.
   
Aside from Varilla, Bonbon Batiller, RR De Leon, Edgar Charcos, Clark Derige and rookie transferee Alvin Pasaol will lead the way for the Warriors, who placed second in a Guam invitational tournament last month.
   
All eyes are on the Archers, the consensus pick to rule Season 79.
   
Locked and loaded, La Salle hopes to bring the trophy back to Taft it last won in 2013 under Aldin Ayo, a proven champion coach who is making his UAAP debut.
   
With a bevy of big men led by Cameroonian Ben Mbala, a solid guard roster behind Jeric Teng  and  a talented  rookie crew of erstwhile high school rivals Justine Baltazar and Aljun Melecio, the Archers looked like unbeatable.
   
“I’m excited especially our first game is against (defending champion) Far Eastern University. Right away, magkakaalaman na kung anong meron kami,” said Ayo.
   
The “mayhem” that Ayo carried his alma mater to a championship last year is expected to bring chaos to the other teams in the league for mighty La Salle.
   
“It was totally opposite when I was with Letran. Before, no one knows my defense. This time, there will be no surprise factor and everybody is going preparing for us,” said Ayo.