UAAP Season 76 Men’s Basketball Preview
Part Four: UP & UST
by rick olivares
University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons
Head coach: Ricky Dandan (third year)
Season 75 record: 1-13
Filoil record: 2-6
Key losses: Mike Silungan, Jett Manuel, Alinko Mbah, Paolo Romero (injury), Mike Gamboa, Robby Weirzba, Alvin Padilla, Diony Hipolito, Mark Lopez, Jelo Montecastro
Additions: Augustani Amar (West Negros University), Jason Ligad (St. Jude Catholic School), Kyles Lao (Xavier), Kyle Suarez (Ateneo High School), Andrew Harris (St. Clare), Tata Marata (transferred from DLSU), Andrei Paras (LSGH), and Mikee Reyes (returns to the lineup)
Projected starting five: Raul Soyud (center), Chris Ball (power forward), Tata Marata (small forward) Augustini Amar (shooting guard), Mikee Reyes (point guard)
Looks like this year, the UP Fighting Maroons will finally put it together and get out of the cellar. Their record in the summer leagues will show that they finished strong with two wins in the Filoil tourney and made the semis of the Fr. Martin’s Cup. Now if that doesn’t add to their confidence I do not know what else will.
You might ask why I have faith in this team.
This is a tall and athletic team with loads of new talent and potential and they’re out to prove something. One thing that is overlooked with them is they’re good defensively and can rebound some. More possessions means they have an opportunity to stay with opponents. So that means Raul Soyud should try to stay away from foul trouble.
Sure they struggled in the pre-season. That’s what losing eight players from last year will do. But as I wrote, they got it together by the summer’s end.
The return of Tata Marata (after several years in La Salle) to Diliman gives the Maroons a scorer who when is on can be dangerous. The problem is when he’s off. Julius Wong is being counted on not only for leadership but also for help.
If Kyle Suarez develops that jumpshot, he’ll be of huge help to this team. Can’t keep slashing to the basket when the defense is set and you’re unable to get out on the break. Kyles Lao can shoot but we’ll see how he’ll adjust to UAAP defenses.
But the onus is on the point guards Mikee Reyes and Henry Asilum to get this team going. The problem with UP is that they have had no steady court general since Mike Gamboa’s first few years in the league. They usually grab players who like to shoot (read: Marvin Cruz and Joshua Saret) thus not getting their teammates involved.
If the coaching staff can get some consistency from their bench, UP will be a handful.
I believe that this season no team can walk in any venue and say that it is an automatic team with UP. The Maroons know they aren’t seeded even for the Final Four with all their key losses and their newbies so they’ll enter the season below the radar. You might be surprised they’ll knock you for a loop.
But do not think that they play without pressure. For a team that has been at the cellar for quite some time, they want to improve and not sit on mediocrity. It’s definitely not fun being down there.
University of Santo Tomas
Head coach: Pido Jarencio (eighth year)
Season 75 record: 11-6
Filoil record: 6-5
Key losses: Jeric Fortuna, Louie Vigil, Melo Afuang, Janrey Garrido,
Additions: Jeepy Faundo (Jose Rizal University), Jan Macasaet (San Sebastian College Recoletos), Edcor Marata (University of Visayas), Shaek Sherriff (returns to Team A lineup), Brian James So (Harvardian Pampanga)
Projected starting five: Karim Abdul (center), Aljon Mariano (power forward), Kevin Ferrer (small forward), Jeric Teng (shooting guard), Kim Lo (point guard)
The best thing to happen this summer was seeing Pido Jarencio return to the sidelines and coach this team. While Jarencio was attending to his PBA duties, assistant Estong Ballesteros took over.
While the latter was in charge, he gave his starters a lot of minutes. But with Jarencio’s return, he only started Jeric Teng and put the others on the bench. This was to give them the chance to develop and maybe provide some points and rebounding to their team.
If you ask me it helped.
Ed Daquioag is playing with a lot of confidence. Paulo Pe, Robert Hainga and Jeepy Faundo can contribute quality minutes. And if Kim Lo, Robin Tan and the rest of the bench can add a point or two, a rebound, assist, or block here and there, that’s the gravy Jarencio demands.
It is possible that Jarencio will go with that tactic of starting his former reserves while keeping his regular starters as shock troopers.
The one question asked all summer (actually since Jeric Fortuna played his final game for UST during the PCCL), who will take over at the point. UST has different players run the one-spot – Daquioag, Clark Bautista, Kim Lo, Robin Tan or even Jon Sherriff.
Truthfully, I don’t think this is a team that needs one. They also have Kevin Ferrer and Jeric Teng to bring down the ball. This is a half court that that can shoot or power their way inside.
Karim Abdul towards the end of the summer was finally focused on hoops and he was his old dominant self (after spending the summer playing goalkeeper for Dolphins United in the UFL’s Division Two).
This summer, the Growling Tigers won Millennium Basketball League over UPHDS and landed in the semis of Filoil where they lost to UE.
At the end of the day, the scoring for this team will come down to Abdul, Teng, Aljon Mariano, Ferrer, and Bautista. With them, Jarencio still has some of the best at their positions in the league.
And these Tigers are hungry for a title.
Here are my other season previews
Part One: Adamson and Ateneo
Part Two: La Salle and FEU
Part Three: NU and UE