UAAP Season 76 Men’s Basketball Preview
Part Three: NU and UE
by rick olivares
Head coach: Eric Altamirano (third year)
Season 75 record: 9-5, Final Four
Filoil record: 10-1, lost in the finals
Key losses: Jul-Ashri Ignacio, Henri Betayene, Reden Celda, Ajeet Singh
Additions: JJ Alejandro (Mapua), Alfred Aroga (Bilingue Luc Legrand – Cameroon), Nico Javelona (West Negros University), William Maurice Porter (Pacific Hills School – USA),
Projected starting five: Jean Mbe (center), Troy Rosario (power forward), Jeff Javillionar (small forward), Ray Parks (shooting guard), Gelo Alolino (point guard)
This team is ready to win it all. Now that’s a strong statement.
Even if they lost to the UE Red Warriors in the Filoil finals, they are still the top-ranked team. And it’s even cool to know that they are embracing it.
This season really represents their best opportunity to bag that elusive crown they last hoisted in 1955.
For them to accomplish that, they will need to dig deep and draw out career performances from those playing their final years -- long-time center Jean Mbe, forward Dennice Villamor, and guards Mark De Guzman and Robin Roño. And there’s even talks that this might be Ray Parks’ last. Whether true or not, the onus now on them is to snatch that crown while Ateneo is reloading.
The Bulldogs have won the Filoil, Fr. Martin’s Cup, and University Games but the grand prize that eludes them is the UAAP.
This team that Eric Altamirano put together has been together for three years now and there are no more excuses about not having team chemistry or the experience. They have the team and the players to win it. They even added Alfred Aroga, a terrific find who can give NU versatility up front and on the break. Imagine if Mbe and Aroga are on their game… there’s not going to be any relief for opposing centers and teams. The Bulldogs also have JJ Alejandro who after red-shirting last season, plays like a veteran. He can certainly add to their shooting from the outside.
Confidence can be fleeting. They unraveled on national television during the Filoil finals when they failed to keep track of Parks’ fouls and they struggled to match up with UE. However, I don’t think they’ll fall in that trap again.
What the Bulldogs have done right is have the other players step up and not rely on Parks. They have to have one or two others chip in. In the pre-season that was Aroga and Troy Rosario. As key as Parks is, if Rosario can help out on the boards and in the scoring, they have a better chance of winning.
They have a balanced line up of bigs, shooters, and creators. They have the athletes who can also jump outside the gym. What the coaching staff has to worry about is their bench that has shown an alarming propensity to turn into bystanders.
If they can handle the pressure in this wide open race for the crown. If they do well in the first and second rounds, their confidence will surge. Then you can look for them to book a final slot.
UE Red Warriors
Head coach: Boycie Zamar (second year, fifth overall)
Season 75 record: 3-11
Filoil record: 9-2, champion
Key losses: Gene Belleza, Anthony Olayon, Sam Razon, Erwin Duran, Paul Meña, Vincent Villarias, Ian Valdez, Carlo Duncil
Additions: Lord Casajeros (returns to the lineup after a year’s sabbatical), Leo Guion (Hope Christian High School), Gino Jumao-as (San Sebastian High School), Charles Mammie (College for Boys – Sierra Leone), JM Noble (returns to line-up after a year’s sabbatical), Ralf Olivares (Macabalan National High School), Luis Adrian Pujante (San Beda College)
Projected starting five: Chris Javier (center), Adrian Santos (power forward), Jay-R Sumido (small forward), Lord Casajeros (shooting guard), Roi Sumang (point guard)
It’s amazing what a coaching change and a massive dose of confidence can do for a team. Unknown to most, since Zamar took over late last season, this team has won six championships! They won the 9th Asian University Basketball Federation Games, the 10th Fr. Martin’s Cup II, the University College Basketball League in Malaysia, the 2013 Aspac Invitational Basketball Tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia, the 2013 Malay Municipal Mayor’s Cup in Boracay, and the recent Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup where they topped heavy favorite National University.
They also made the finals of last year’s University Games only they didn’t suit up as it conflicted with their departure for the tournament in Malaysia (that they won).
With center Charles Mammie hauling down those rebounds, scorers like Roi Sumang and Jay-R Sumido can shoot a little more knowing there’s someone who can clean up the boards.
While Mammie outplayed (and out-trash talked) Jean Mbe and Alfred Aroga in the Filoil finals, I do not expect a repeat performance as they now know how to play the Sierra Leone native.
I mentioned the Greg Slaughter Principle (where an incoming big man replaces the previous starting center) when it comes to the Adamson Falcons. Although UE starts Chris Javier and brings Mammie off the bench, there are times when the two play alongside with the former sliding to the power forward position. Javier looked lost at times during the pre-season playing a lot farther from the basket. If he can figure out how it can work for him (he should work on his perimeter shooting as well) then the Red Warriors will cause opposing teams many a problem.
For Mammie to be effective, he has to stay on the floor. He has to realize the officiating in the Filoil tournament is way different from the UAAP.
The biggest addition is transferee Ralf Olivares who should have suited up last season but went down with a knee injury. With only a year left, look for this player to make an even bigger impact than Sumido who only bombards from the outside. Olivares can take it inside and out making him a valuable all-around player.
But the Red Warriors are led by Roi Sumang. His back ups at the one-spot are miles off – Guion and Pujante. Lord Casajeros can bring up the ball. Ditto with Sumido and Olivares.
The late emergence of Gino Jumao-as, the ex-San Sebastian Staglets star will offset the loss of Mario Bonleon, the La Salle Greenhills star who never met a shot he didn’t like. Bonleon, buried in the bench decided to return to Davao (it was a family decision to pull him out). He would have been a terrific weapon the following year were it not for the impatience of youth.
Jumao-as in the meantime gives UE another dimension at the forward position as he can create not only for himself but also his teammates. In the Filoil finals against NU, Jumao-as was paired with Sumang and that was a devastating combination.
Perhaps the biggest upside for this long-suffering team is their head coach (Zamar) and their braintrust (Bai Cristobal, Bong Ramos, Billy Reyes, and Nomar Isla). Zamar has been an excellent motivator for the Red Warriors. Six titles in less than a year has got to mean something.
And that means they are oozing with confidence. More so, they know they can beat everyone in the league. And that’s a dangerous advantage for them.
Here are the first two parts of my UAAP Season 76 Men's Basketball Preview
Part One: Adamson and Ateneo
Part Two: La Salle and FEU
TOMORROW -- UP and UST!