The 75th season of the UAAP starts this coming weekend. Ateneo is going for a 5th straight men’s seniors’ basketball title and every other team is determined to prevent that from happening.
Here is my preview of the upcoming season.
Ateneo Blue Eagles
The Blue Eagles are the favorites the win their 5th straight crown. Ateneo has depth,experience and Norman Black. The big question mark this year is in the leadership. Juami Tiongson, and Nico Elorde are the main point guards. Kiefer Ravena will probably do more than his share of ball handling duties. Coach Norman Black returns for his last season as coach, and his players will give it their all to give their coach a rousing swan song. The frontcourt is solid with Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, JP Erram, Justin Chua, and comebacking Ryan Buenafe. Outside shooting is expected from Oping Sumalinog and Tonino Gonzaga aside from their defensive prowess. Five peat or bust!
Big 3: Slaughter, Salva, Ravena
Player to watch: Greg Slaughter. The 7 footer actually improved. He looks stronger, has more polished post moves and has shown he has a respectable jumper.
Player on the hotseat :Kiefer Ravena. Ravena looked “human” in pre-season games as defenses now know his game and have been doing decent jobs in limiting his production. Every Atenean is hoping he can avoid the sophomore jinx.
X-Factor: Ryan Buenafe. Is he the Ryan Buenafe, clutch scorer, spectacular passer or the player who was overweight, sulks on the court and looked uninspired?
National University Bulldogs
The NU Bulldogs showed they are legitimate UAAP contenders by going undefeated and winning the recently concluded FilOil Pre-season cup. Bobby Ray Parks is scary good. He has shown an improved jumpshot, post moves, and more importantly leadership. Jean Mbe has also improved as he has apparently learned not to foul everyone who goes in the lane. The biggest reason for their success is in the coaching. Eric Altamirano has convinced all, ALL his players that they are ready to the next stop, and his players are oozing with confidence. Dennice Villamor, Jeff Javillonar, Gelo Alolino ,Glenn Khobuntin, and rookie Mark de Guzman provide solid support and have all shown they are not afraid to take a big shot. The NU Bulldogs have got it all for you!
Big 3: Parks,Mbe,Alolino
Player to watch: Bobby Ray Parks. He sure looks ready to repeat as UAAP MVP. He is probably the most complete player in the UAAP right now.
Player on the hotseat: Jean Mbe. Will he continue his stellar play that he showed in the pre season league? He was part of the Mythical 5 and won the best defensive player of that tournament. The Bulldogs are hoping so.
X Factor: The MOA Arena. What? The Bulldogs have been practicing in their spanking new arena, and probabaly have a home court advantage. They even have their own locker rooms in the Arena.
The Tamaraws have been bridesmaids the past 2 seasons to the Blue Eagles. Is the 3rd time the charm? RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo form arguably the most potent backcourt in the league. Russel Escoto,Carl Cruz, The Bringas brothers, Arvie and Mark,and Roger Pogoy will try to make up for the losses of Aldrech Ramos and JR Cawaling to graduation. The Tamaraws are still experienced, have the smarts, and have the firepower to reach the top, as long as their top 2 guards co-exist. Let’s go Tamaraws, lets go!
Big 3: Garcia, Romeo,Tolomia,
Player to watch: RR Garcia. Mr Cool. Mr Clutch. When RR’s game is on, just sit back and watch him hit loopers, push shots, 3 pointers from the corners and his free throws. The expression on his face rarely changes. Only his hair color does.
Player on the hotseat: Terrence Romeo. He was wild in the finals a year ago. Apparently he wanted to do too much to help his team win, and it meant not making proper decisions as the teams point guard. If he is under control and plays within the system, FEU will be formidable.
X Factor: Arvie Bringas. Bring as to the promised land, the La Salle faithful chanted. Alas Arvie did not deliver. So he takes his talents to FEU,and after sitting out a year, he is now ready to bang bodies again with the league. If he plays to his potential, he might be the next Vic Pablo, if not, the next Mike Otto.
De La Salle Green Archers
The Green Archers are itching to make it to the top again. Last season’s disapointments are behind them and a new era beginning with new Coach Gee Abanilla calling the shots and fearless rookie gunner Jeron Teng (Tengsanity!) a notable addition to the team. A runner up finish in the Fil Oil pre season tournament showed what this team is capable of. Norbet Torres has done his homework and is a terror in the low post with his jump hooks and face up jumpers and is a tireless rebounder. Yutien Andrada, Ponso Gotladera, Papot Paredes and (injured) big man Arnold Van Opstal, are lean, tall, and all defensively imposing. The backcourt of LA Revilla, Almond Vosotros, Jed Manguerra and Mark Tallo are fast, and all are ready to take the big shot. The Green Archers are locked and loaded for the upcoming season!
Big 3: Revilla, Torres, Teng
Player to watch: LA Revilla. He is the team leader. He will take the big shot and will not back down. He is arguably the league’s best point guard.
Player on the hotseat: Jeron Teng. He is undeniably talented. But some feel he takes too many shots and it may irk the veterans on the team. He is already clutch. (See Ateneo game 3point shot)If he plays under control and takes his shots in the rhythm of the game, he is a lock for rookie of the year.
X Factor: Gee Abanilla. The Pumaren era ended and after a whole lot of coaches names were rumored to be taking over (Cone,Uichico, Villanueva), DLSU entrusted their team to their long time assistant.The public will scrutinize what system he brings to the school, how he handles a team he inherited and how he responds to alumni pressure.
UST Growling Tigers
The Tigers MAY have overachieved last year by making it into the final four. Nobody had them making it that far, except maybe for Coach Pido Jarencio. They lost Chris Camus to a mathematical error, but gain back sharpshooter Clark Bautista, and slasher Aljon Mariano. The two Jerics, Teng and Fortuna are still around and along with Melo Afuang, will be the leaders of the team. Karim Abdul, has slimmed down, and also has shown an improved low post game. Here’s to hoping he won’t run out of gas at the end of games, and won’t be in foul trouble. When he sits down the other UST big men (Paolo Pe, Afuang) have to step up.UST was flying low on everybody’s radar last year, but this season everyone will be watching them as they had moderate success in pre season tournaments. Go USTE!
Big 3: Fortuna,Teng,Abdul
Player to watch: Jeric Fortuna. He has shown he is clutch in some big games last year. But in some games he just plain disappeared and got tired. This year he will play more consistently, now that Tata Bautista is back to relieve him. Last year he logged heavy minutes as the Tigers did not have a suitable backup. He will probably make it to the mythical five. He is that good.
Player on the hot seat: Jeric Teng. With small bro on the other side of the fence, Kuya Jeric has to prove to the league that he is the better Teng. Last year he was MIA in some games as was his outside shot. But he quickly adapted and learned to drive and draw to get his numbers. This year he needs to be more consistent.
X Factor: Kevin Ferrer. The high school superstar looked lost last year. He has been mentioned in the same breath as Kiefer Ravena in terms of talent, so this year the tall 6’3” shooting guard will be expected to vastly improve to live up to the hype he rightfully deserves.
Adamson Soaring Falcons
Coach Leo Austria has his job cut out for him this year. Twin point guards Lester Alvarez and Jerick Canada are gone. So are Janus Lozada, Jan Colina,and Austin Manyara. But Alex Nuyles, Eric Camson, Rodney Brondial, Allen Etrone and gunner Roeder Cabrera,are still aound. This team is no pushover and will give teams a run for their money. But with no proven point guards and no legit low post players, they will be hard pressed to equal last years’ accomplishments. For me, Adamson is no longer a final four contender but this team will continue to battle and will go down fighting.
Big 3: Nuyles, Camson, Brondial
Player to watch: Eric Camson. He is one of the better forwards in the league. He has improved every year he has been in the Uaap. This year expect his scoring and rebounding numbers to be even higher.
Player on the hotseat: Alex Nuyles. Nuyles may be the most exciting player in the league. He can quickly change the game with his 3 point shots, slashing drives, and spectacular dunks. He should step up and be one of the leagues’ top scorers. He should also accept the leadership role that Coach Leo expects from him.
X Factor: Roeder Cabrera. If he learns to take better shots, not more shots, he will be one the best scorers in the league. A notorious streak shooter, he is the typical “when he’s hot watch out player,” and a typical “when not, sit him down.”
UP Fighting Maroons
The Maroons’ record the last 5 years is 8 wins-70 losses, and included 2 winless season. This year, they won’t go winless, but won’t go the final four either. They look like a lock for the bottom 2 of the standings this year,(sigh!) Mike Silungan will again be asked to carry the scoring load for the team. Last year was a down year for him, as the losses looked to take its toll on him as looked to be coasting in some games. Mark Lopez, makes a comeback this year, and along with Alvin Padilla, Mike Gamboa, UAAP most improved player Jett Manuel and Jelo Montecastro are back to try make UP’s campaign a decent one this year. Center Magi Sison is gone, and only sophomore Paolo Romero looks to be the only experienced big man in the frontcourt. So the center slot is definitely a problem. UP’s Pep Squad continues to be more exciting than the men’s team. I hope this year they do better. UP Fight!
Big 3: Silungan, Padilla, Manuel
Player to watch: Mike Silungan. He probably owns the best looking jump shot in the league. Last year his shot was off. I think he will be one of the top scorers this year, his last year in the league.
Player in the hot seat: Alvin Padilla. He is UP’s best all around player if he keeps cool and does not lose his temper.
X Factor: Mark Lopez. He has missed the last 2 years due to an injury. He showed great promise in the pre season tournaments and could be the all around “glue” player this team needs.
UE Red Warriors
This team lived up to their nickname. The Red Warriors were always fighting and giving their all. This year expect more of the same, in terms of attitude and results. No final four this year guys. Roi Sumang, Adrian Santos, Chris Javier, and Erwin Duran, will do their best to spring some surprises at the contenders. The Red Warriors need a lot of work on both ends of the court. The veterans on the team have to do their share or they’ll end up in the cellar. Maybe Coach Jerry should suit up again. UE is in for a long season. Go UE!
Player to watch: Roi Sumang. He has improved every year and will continue to improve and make defenses pay when he is left alone.
Player on the hot seat: Chris Javier. He was a highly touted big man coming out of San Beda HS. This year he needs to show the UAAP that he is a legit big man.
X Factor: Jerry Codinera. Will he be able to motivate his team? I’ts hard to do considering the coach is the best player on the team.
Ateneo, NU, DLSU and FEU final four bound.
Ateneo over FEU, NU over DLSU
Ateneo over NU.
Ateneo season 75 champs.
Finals MVP: Slaughter
Most Improved: Gelo Alolino NU
Rookie of the Year: Jeron Teng DLSU
Defensive Player: Jean Mbe NU
First team: Ravena, Parks, LA Revilla, Slaughter, Garcia
Second team: Salva, Torres, Nuyles, Fortuna, Abdul
Get into the team spirit. Wear your school colors. Grab yourself a pair of limited UAAP themed Havaianas.