Saturday, 22 June 2013 40 Comments
With the 89th Season of the NCAA set to tip off in less than 24 hours and the 76th Season of the UAAP following suit a week later, teams from both leagues are deep into their preparations and the anticipation is at an all time high.
Presently, all teams are under a state of transition. It is that narrow space of time right after the conclusion of the preseason tournament, the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, and just before the year’s main events in collegiate basketball.
During this time, every player and every coach assesses performances in the preseason and figures out the appropriate game plans for upcoming battles.
Therefore, let’s zero in on the teams who finished in the Final Four of the FilOil preseason tourney and see what they’re cooking up before the explosive seasons unfurl before us.
They are dominant in the jungle as well as on the hardwood. They are the big cats that combine finesse and ferocity effortlessly.
The UST Growling Tigers and the San Beda Red Lions are both formidable teams in their respective leagues. Now, they’re about to take on new challenges.
Same stripes, a change in attitude
Since being in the Finals of last year’s UAAP Season, the Tigers continued to rely heavily on usual suspects Jeric Teng, Aljon Mariano, Karim Abdul, Kevin Ferrer, and Clark Bautista in the succeeding leagues they participated in. This new season will naturally see these same names carrying much of the load.
But this time with some much needed help.
“Yung mag se-step up sa tingin ko talaga sila (Ed) Daquioag dahil siyempre siya na yung pumalit kay (Jeric) Fortuna and sila Paulo Pe. Lahat naman (pati) sila Kim Lo,” said team captain Jeric Teng. “We’re happy na lahat nagse-step up sa amin this year.”
Head coach Pido Jarencio fervently believes that the FilOil tourney was an ideal extended practice for his boys. It essentially provided them with the legitimacy of a league as well as the leeway to make mistakes.
“Parang tune-up namin. Kasi kailangan din namin,” he said. “Actually, official games ito na pero pati yung mistakes nakikita namin. And then we can improve on that. Maaayos namin yung mga mali.”
Finishing in fourth place after losing against San Beda, the mistakes came clear as day for Coach Pido. “Defensively madaming lapses. Opensa naman medyo walang cohesiveness.”
But he admitted that perhaps rotating so many players was a factor as well.
“Siguro niru-rumble rumble ko rin kasi yung tao ko kaya siguro medyo may gulo kaunti eh. Pero kung UAAP, siyempre iba na yung rotation natin ng tao dun eh.”
Teng also added that decision-making and mental toughness, especially in close games, are the keys to taking them all the way.
On a personal note, Teng believes that he needs to work on his leadership and influence on the court. “Sometimes kasi I get frustrated, nakakahawa sa ibang teammates ko eh. I just have to boost myself and boost my teammates.”
Despite retaining pretty much their same line-up from the previous season, both Coach Pido and Teng believe that they are still the underdogs coming into Season 76.
“I think underdogs. And dahil din nawala si Fortuna they were saying na we’re done, wala kami point guard, mahihirapan kami. We just accept the challenge,” said a determined Teng.
In a classic Coach Pido remark, the animated mentor acknowledged the improvement of other teams in the UAAP.
“Hindi. Malakas yung kalaban. Maraming malalakas. Medyo mahina tayo ngayon,” he said with a smile.
With the team’s preparedness rating at 80% Teng sees one very important lesson learned in the preseason that they should definitely carry with them to battle. “Whatever happens, sama sama kami. Sa dulo, pag close game, sa amin dapat.”
La Salle is first on UST’s proverbial hit list after losing their initial preseason joust. They clash at 4pm on opening day’s main event on June 29.
While Teng is thinking of specifics such as rebounding and defense in order to make up for the La Salle loss and go against other teams, Coach Pido simply put on his trademark grin and uttered a vague answer on how his team will compensate for all the firepower coming their way.
Protecting pride and throne
For the Red Lions, their standard does not stop at three straight championships.
Season 89 means defending their place as Kings atop the NCAA jungle as they go for the remarkable four-peat. It means defending their pride and etching deeper their perennial legacy in college hoops.
It also means being better than their last championship run.
Head coach Boyet Fernandez no longer wants a repeat of their semi-finals loss to National University in the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup — a loss that he believes was a product of little preparation.
Hence, for the new NCAA season Coach Boyet and his Mendiola-based squad have been breathing nothing but solid preparation, with practices held daily only a day after their claim of the preseason’s third place at UST’s expense.
“Ang ginagawa namin ngayon, we’re really executing well on our offense. Medyo tinitignan namin yung points of attacks, and then inaayos namin yung rotation namin,” explained Coach Boyet. “Tapos inaayos rin namin yung defensive schemes namin because we’re going to face different teams, iba iba style. So sana we’re ready for that.”
The preseason stint has certainly been an enriching experience for his boys, regardless of ranking.
“Dito namin nakita kung ano ang mali namin, ano ang dapat namin matutunan pa, at ano yung i-continue namin. Para pag dating ng NCAA, we’ll cut down everything and then we just concentrate on kung saan yung pinakamalakas kami.”
There’s no doubt though that among those factors bound to continue and flourish well into NCAA Season 89 is the Lions’ young star point guard, Baser Amer.
At only 19 years old, Amer has already risen to the role of court general, leading his pride of Lions in every fast break and in every offensive set.
“It’s a big lesson (para) sa akin. And big challenge rin. Kasi as a point guard kailangan mo silang i-control sa loob eh. And sobrang laki din ata ng tiwala ni Coach Boyet sa akin,” said the soft-spoken Amer.
Coach Boyet does, indeed, have full faith in his young ward. In fact, he took Amer under the experienced wings of four-time champions NLEX Road Warriors of the PBA Developmental League in order for him to gain maturity.
He hoped that Amer’s exposure to guys like RR Garcia and Borgie Hermida would result to some of their veteran court smarts rubbing off on him.
“Sobrang laki na tulong ng NLEX sa akin kasi lahat ng mga nakakasama ko doon are most outstanding players talaga and halos lahat sila doon are veterans. Dami ko natutunan,” said Amer, validating Coach Boyet’s hope for him.
“Kinuha ko siya para may maturity agad. And I saw his maturity right now. Hopefully it will continue to develop and hopefully when it comes to NCAA time, he will lead San Beda to the 4-peat,” said Coach Boyet.
For Amer’s part in the upcoming college wars, he refuses to make the same mistakes again. Especially one like San Beda’s fourth quarter meltdown during their much anticipated match-up against the NU Bulldogs in the semi-finals.
The only way for him to make sure that it never happens again is to focus on improving his game and helping his team over all as well.
“Kailangan ko i-improve yung pagiging leader ko sa loob. Every game, every practice kailangan ko sila ma-manage sa loob,” said the Davao native.
Finishing at third place in the preseason is nothing to be ashamed of for Coach Boyet, even if they are three-peat NCAA champions.
“Sa amin kasi it’s not really the place eh, it’s really the experience that we had. But getting third place is consolation for this team,” he said as he expressed his delight over the team attaining a better finish this year and the change he has seen in them.
“Happy na rin ako kasi we surpassed last year’s place. But yung pinaka-happy ako ay nakita ko talaga kung ano deperensya.”
Both Amer and Coach Boyet along with the rest of the San Beda crew will get their feet wet early and have a chance to test out their newly gained experiences. They go head to head with the College of St. Benilde in the season’s opening match at 4pm.
The wealth of experience from their championship runs and their overseas trainings, as well as from the preseason leagues can surely be the game changer that can tip the scale in favor of the Lions.
The key though is never to underestimate one’s opponent.
“Sabi ni Coach lahat ng teams malakas na, nag-improve na. So kailangan every game manalo kami. We work as a team,” remarked Amer.
Finally, when pushed to the brink with no other options left, it will be the Lions’ sheer determination that can pull them through.
Coach Boyet echoes determination in the simplest way.
“Right now we’re 3-peat, right? So we’re looking for 4-peat.”