CSB Blazers end their Premier Cup stint in disappointing fashion
by rick olivares
With less than a month away before the NCAA men’s basketball season tips off, the College of Saint Benilde Blazers have to time to reassess their stint in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup that ended with a sickening thud. Not only were they bowled over by the University of Perpetual Help Altas 59-41 to drop them to 1-6 but they tied the mark for offensive futility.
Unfortunately, the Blazers own the three lowest scoring matches in the 10-year history of the tournament. Ironically, they were all set every four years, Olympic years at that.
In 2008, Jose Rizal University held them to 42 points. Four years later in 2012, San Beda College shackled them to 41. Against the Altas, with one second left, Benilde only had 39 points but a tip-in at the last moment saw them score one last basket.
A disconsolate CSB coach Gabby Velasco could only shake his head when informed of the dubious record. “No comment,” he said as he walked off.
The Blazers’ only win of the tournament was 71-46 victory over Emilio Aguinaldo College that finished at the bottom of the Group A standings with a 1-6 record.
In the tale of the tape:
CSB averaged 55.7 points, 44.4 rebounds, 11.4 assists, and 19.7 turnovers in seven matches.
Opponents compiled averages of 62.1 points, 40.1 rebounds, 12.1 assists, and 18.1 turnovers.
The Blazers have one of the youngest teams in the league with a smattering of rookies and sophomores. Swingman Alfonso Saavedra is the only veteran on the squad.
The Blazers’ top performers are forward-center Christian Fajarito who was the only player to average in double digit scoring with 10.7 points an outing. He also grabbed 7.2 rebounds in seven games. First year center Clement Leutcheu posted averaged of 7.2 points, 7.8 rebounds while forward Yankee Haruna added 6.8 points and 6.0 boards. Point guard JJ Domingo contributed 5.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.6 steals.
Offensively, I think that their offense takes too long to materialize. I’ve noticed that on some occasions even with the man advantage, rather than attack, they opt to pull back and organize. They also take too many attempts deep into the shot clock count. With no go-to scorer like they had in Jonathan Grey, Mark Romero, or Carlo Lastimosa in recent years, that is tough.
They lack consistency. Christian Fajarito showed late development; he got better as the tournament wore on. But against the Altas, he was non-existent and that hurt CSB greatly. The consistency though is contingent on their maturity. As I said, they are a young team. They will get better in a year or two and will compete provided they get more frontline help.
Who can take that shot for them? JJ Domingo, Fons Saavedra, Rene Sta. Maria, or possibly even Louie Pasamante. Haruna has to be consistent. He has moments but they are moments. Too few and far in between.
I think they are susceptible to the press. The Domingo brothers, JJ and JS, are good but need more seasoning.
For the Blazers to do well in the upcoming NCAA tourney, they need their frontline to produce consistently. And that means Fajarito and Clement Leutcheu to produce steady numbers. Freddy Pajarillaga and Kendrix Belgica will be there for spot duty but every bit helps. Without that frontline scoring, the onus is on the forwards and guards to score. But they will be going up against some top notch guards corps in San Beda, Perpetual Help, Arellano, Letran, and even Lyceum.
Since they aren’t great offensively, I think they should concentrate more on defense and from there, try to run rather than set up.