UAAP Season 76 Men’s Basketball Preview
Part Two: La Salle and FEU
by rick olivares
La Salle Green Archers
Head coach: Juno Sauler (first year)
Season 75 record: 9-5, Final Four
Filoil record: 6-3
Key losses: Yutien Andrada, Jovet Mendoza, Joshua Webb, Jed Manguera, Mark Tallo, Papot Paredes, Ponso Gotladera
Additions: Robert Bolick Jr. (La Salle Greenhills), Kib Montalbo (St. John’s Institute Bacolod), Jason Perkins (Shekopee High School, Minnesota), Matt Salem (Lake Howell),
Projected starting five: Norbert Torres (center), Jason Perkins (power forward), Jeron Teng (small forward), Gab Reyes (shooting guard), Thomas Torres (point guard)
They are one of the most scrutinized and talked about teams especially after their late pre-season fall and changes. Can they make the final four or even win it all?
It is foolish to count them out. Never do that. One great game can turn everything around. Besides, the last time I checked, a pre-season title doesn’t guarantee an UAAP championship.
What should the Green Archers do if they want to get into the title race?
The Green Archers actually have a complete team even with only 13 players in the line-up. They have height in Nobert Torres, Arnold Van Opstal, and Jason Perkins. They’ve got gunners in Luigi dela Paz, Almond Vosotros, and Gab Reyes. They’ve got slashers in Jeron Teng and Oda Tampus. And they have a terrific point guard cadre in LA Revilla, Thomas Torres, Robert Bolick, and Kib Montalbo (Almond Vosotros can also man that court general position when need be).
So what’s the problem? In my opinion, it’s a crisis of confidence. They have a nice balance of veterans and talented newcomers. Teams wish they had a line up like this.
In the pre-season, they were a frightening juggernaut bowling over one team after another. Until they ran into Ateneo and San Beda that dealt them crushing defeats. But that’s the pre-season. You learn from that. What they have to put it together consistently and fire on all cylinders. When they accomplish that they’ll be rolling.
Jason Perkins is a massive addition down low. He’s not the tallest but he has a nose for that ball and he can put it in the hole. If he’s on, there’ll be no relief for opposing teams more so if AVO and Norbert are humming. How they play will be crucial to their campaign as we have seen that the UAAP is still a big man’s league.
You need me to expound? Jervy Cruz, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Greg Slaughter all led their teams to five of the last seven titles. Teams are loaded for bear up front to ensure domination of the paint – UST has Karim Abdul, FEU has Anthony Hargrove, UE has Charles Mammie (and we all saw what he is bringing to the table for the Red Warriors), NU has Jean Mbe and Alfred Aroga, and Adamson has Ingrid Sewa. The arms race is at the center position. AVO and Norbert Torres have to compete and go hard against these guys if they want a fighting chance.
Jeron Teng in only his first year was as close to becoming the King Archer. However, his inexperience saw him give way at times. Luckily for La Salle, Almond Vosotros is clutch. And that helps them in the endgame. They just have to be consistent about it.
With Juno Sauler at the helm, and with his experience in the college and pro ranks, it’s a plus that no one has scouted them. What everyone knows is they were a solid defensive team last year. They have to continue with that mindset if they want to continue to compete.
However, it is as I said, you cannot count them out. They’ll be in the thick of things.
Head coach: Nash Racela (first year)
Season 75 record: 9-5
Filoil record: 4-4
Key losses: Arvie Bringas, Russell Escoto, John Foronda, Mark Bringas, Jolas Guerrero
Additions: Joshua Aguilon (FEU-FERN), Jeson Delfinado (FEU-FERN), August Vince Denila (University of Visayas), Ron Dennison (Southern City Colleges), Joel Lee Yu (FEU-FERN), Jovanie Luz (FEU-FERN)
Projected starting five: Anthony Hargrove (center), Carl Cruz (power forward), Rey Belo (small forward), RR Garcia (shooting guard), Mike Tolomia (point guard)
As new coach Nash Racela, it is best that for once, they are approaching the season without top seedings. It’s not to underplay this team that on any given day can light it up even with all their loses in personnel.
One might be tempted to ask if the Tamaraws’ braintrust was slack in their recruiting. Actually, no. They have added a few pieces to their puzzle every year for the last few years – Roger Pogoy, Arvie Bringas, Anthony Hargrove, and Rey Mark Belo. Not so bad, right?
Then they have their kids from the juniors title team (sans Jerie Pingoy and Roger Domingo). What they didn’t anticipate was losing Arvie Bringas because of management’s disenchantment with his attitude that cost them a few games last season as well as Russell Escoto who is out for the year with a knee injury.
With a depleted Ateneo team, the race for the basketball crown is wide open. FEU although their situation in some ways mirrors Ateneo’s (guard-driven) has a chance as well.
Now how do they make it to the Final Four?
1. The Tamaraws’ game is now in the hands of their guards and they have three of the best in the business in RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo, and Mike Tolomia. The question in the past several seasons is can all three make sweet music together?
Whatever chemistry problems among the three they may have, one of their bright spots during the summer was the emergence of Tolomia. One of the three will have to come off the bench to provide firepower.
In case anyone was watching, Garcia seems to have recovered his UAAP MVP form late in the pre-season. I think he’s found his groove again.
Their guards’ understanding and acceptance of their roles is crucial to this season’s success.
2. For all their guards’ firepower, they need to integrate Anthony Hargrove in the mix.
The Tamaraws do not have much inside. Christian Sentcheu is a good locker room leader. He always tries to do his best on the court even if limited. But they’ll need monster productions from Hargrove for them to have a fighting chance. During the summer, he looked lost with their new offense that is really predicated on guard play. In the previous season, at times, the ball would go down to either of the Bringas brothers to let them create.
Hargrove isn’t the creative sort as he needs to be fed that ball. Although he has shown a deft touch when it comes to drop passes. He’ll need to open up that lane for Garcia and Tolomia. Romeo is no problem. He’s a one-man arsenal who can light it up.
Racela must also count on Carl Cruz, Gryann Mendoza, Roger Pogoy, and Belo to provide points in the paint.
3. Their nine-man rotation is solid. They need to bring it or else that will force Racela to dig deep into his bench. Hopefully, their kids can find playing time as well that will bolster their drive to the playoffs.
Read Part One of my UAAP Season 76 previews: the Adamson Soaring Falcons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles
Tomorrow: National University and the UE Red Warriors.