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UAAP Season 79 Preview: A time to soar for the Adamson Falcons
by rick olivares
There’s hope for the first time in years that this year’s Adamson Soaring Falcons will fly higher more than just their nickname dictates.
With new management, new coaching staff, and a wholly new cast of players that have given a very good account of themselves in the pre-season, this year’s Falcons have taken a step forward and will contend for a Final Four slot; a play-offs spot they have not made since Season 74.
The rebuilding of the Falcons in the post-Leo Austria years has been marked by transition. Austria led Adamson to its best basketball years since Hector Calma skippered the Falcons to its first and only UAAP title in 1978. Under Austria, Adamson made its only three Final Four Appearances in 2006 and 2010-11.
With the fresh transfusion, these Falcons are poised to challenge the traditional powers of the league. “We were handling the school’s women’s volleyball team when Adamson’s management asked three years ago if we could also help out their basketball team,” related Russel Balbacal, sports director of Akari Lighting and Technology Corporation, the squad’s new major sponsor. “The first task was looking for a new coach and one of those that we first wanted was Ryan Gregorio who coached Purefoods to two PBA championships. He told us that he wanted to go back to the corporate world and he had — for the moment - given up coaching.”
As fate would have it, a former teammate of Calma’s in the professional ranks suddenly became available after a stint in the PBA. "All of a sudden, Franz Pumaren was no longer coaching in the PBA and so we immediately sought his services,” added Balbacal. “Not only is he one of the best coaches around but he is the sort of coach who can turn things around for a team. We are very lucky and fortunate enough to get him.”
Pumaren wasted no time in working the hardcourt magic that he is known for. In the recent Filoil Flying V Premier Cup, his Falcons doggedly battled UAAP title favorite La Salle for the better part of three quarters before falling apart in their very first outing. However, the team got noticeably better as the tournament went on as they booked a spot in the quarterfinals where they ultimately lost to Ateneo. “As you can see, we have 10 new players with only six holdovers from last season,” said Pumaren of his young team. “The challenges are to teach them to play the system we want, to work on certain skills that we feel are wanting, and to play consistently. Management has also armed us and supported us well and now we hope that we can make a good showing of ourselves in the UAAP.”
“We were able to provide the team with as fitness and conditioning coach (Diego Lozano), a big man coach (Tonichi Yturri and Don Allado), a shooting coach (Ren-ren Ritualo); basically what they need,” clarified Balbacal of Akari Sports support. “(Center) Papi Sarr would say that he hoped to get some supplements and we were able to provide that not only for him but also the team.”
“What we are also trying to do is change the culture of not only of the team but also Adamson,” added Pumaren. “I think with the Fil-Americans that we have, we want to show that they not only go to the Ateneos and La Salles of this world and that Adamson is also a very good choice.”
Management and coaching staff have instituted a “defense first” policy. “That’s how teams win championships,” said Pumaren who when he ran his press for more than a decade over at La Salle was dreaded by every team. “But to be able to play what we want we have to make sure their minds and bodies are fit.”
During the Filoil tourney, Adamson was fifth in scoring and second in three-point field goals made, and fifth in free throws attempted in the 16-team league. On the other hand, they were ranked 12th overall in team defense. “That meant we had our work cut out for us and in the months since that tournament ended, I hope that the work we have done has addressed our defensive woes,” revealed Pumaren.
The holdovers from last seasons Falcons squad include do-everything forward JDee Tungcab; shooting guard Harold Ng; forward-centers Dawn Ochea, Christian Bernardo, and Simon Camacho; and center Papi Sarr.
Some of the newcomers expected to contribute right away include guards Terence Mustre who last played for La Salle during the 2012-14 seasons, Nicholas Parañada, Jimboy Pasturan, and Robbie Manalang who drew raves for his heady play and shooting during the pre-season. There’s also shooting guard Jerrick Ahanmisi and forward Sean Maganti who can make things happen on both ends of the floor.
Added Harold Ng after the summer tourney, “Now we have more weapons for every game."