UAAP Season 75 Senior Men’s Basketball Preview

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.

FEU Tamaraws

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.

My prediction:

Ateneo, NU, DLSU and FEU final four bound.

Ateneo over FEU, NU over DLSU

Ateneo over NU.

Ateneo season 75 champs.

MVP: Parks

Finals MVP: Slaughter

Most Improved: Gelo Alolino NU

Rookie of the Year: Jeron Teng DLSU

Defensive Player: Jean Mbe NU

Mythical Teams

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.

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Ateneo vs FEU at The Arena in San Juan

I was able to watch two pre-season games of the Ateneo Blue Eagles Srs basketball team team in the currently ongoing  Fil-Oil Flying V tournament in San Juan.  The first game I watched was between ADMU and the FEU Tamaraws last May 2. The Blue Eagles will be hard pressed this year to defend their UAAP crown, as they will now be minus Chris Tiu (Haaay!!!) and Yuri Escueta. Inheriting Tiu’s starting spot was Eric Salamat. The other starters for this game was UAAP MVP Rabel AL-Hussaini,  Nonoy Baclao, Jai Reyes at PG, and Oping Sumalinog, who wore Tiu’s number 17, and started in place of Ryan Buenafe. The Tamaraws were playing minus Mark Barocca, Aldrech Ramos and JR Cawaling who were in the RP Team. They started an impressive rookie RR Garcia, who scored 9 of his teams’ first 11 points and didn’t play like a newcomer at all. In fact, he got ejected in this game as he threw a punch at Jai Reyes in the 4th quarter. (Atapang a tao)  A slimmed down Reil Cervantes, 6-5 center of the Tamaraws, was also impressive, as he got Rabeh in foul trouble as he was effectively posting up and getting shots in the paint. Feu also had an import, whose name I couldn’t pronounce, and is also eligible for this season. he was a burly player who played inside and out and gave the ADMU big guys trouble.

Al Hussaini vs Cervantes in the trenches

Al Hussaini vs Cervantes in the trenches

Jai goes for three against promising rookie RR Garcia

Jai goes for three against promising rookie RR Garcia

For ADMU, Oping Sumalinog was impressive in this game. He hit around 3 3-point shots and was very active. Jai and Eric were also hitting their outside shots, which is a good sign as it opened up the middle for Rabeh to do his thing. The Ateneo running game was in full display in the first quarter as they took a slight lead at the end of the opening 12 minutes. When ADMU’s second stringers came in, it was apparent, that scoring was going to be a problem. These guys were good defensive players, but the offense sputtered. Kirk Long, who is  already blonde, looked even blonder this time, Bacon Austria (who inherited dad Leo’s feistiness but not his outside shooting), Nico Salva (who will probably inherit Chris Tiu’s shrieks form female fans, haaaay!!!),Justin Chua and Tonino Gonzaga formed the second unit. Mike Baldoz also came in when Chua was proving to be ineffective against Cervantes. Feu with Garcia, Hans Knuttel, and the son of Jack Tanuan, hit their strides and helped FEU take the lead in the 1st half.

Salamat sails in for a lay-up

Salamat sails in for a lay-up

Oping Sumalinog inherited Chris Tiu's #17 jersey.

Oping Sumalinog inherited Chris Tiu's #17 jersey.

Nico Salva might inherit the shrieks from female (and male) fans

Nico Salva might inherit the shrieks from female (and male) fans

Noy Baclao had his hands full defending FEU's "import."

Noy Baclao had his hands full defending FEU's "import."

Foul trouble to big man Rabeh forced Coach Norman to play rookie Frank Golla some minutes. He had his moments, but he has a long way to go. Rabeh struggled all night against all the big men FEU threw against him. I noticed, that Rabeh was complaining too much about the calls, whining really, and it affected his game. C’mon big guy, get used to it. Man up!!! He eventually fouled out. Noy Baclao, Jai and Salamat, righted the ship in time in the fourth. But, with FEU down by 1, with seconds to go, they kept getting a 2nd and 3rd chance to win the game, but Noy Baclao, eventually pulled down the crucial defensive rebound, was fouled and trooped to the foul line to ice the game with 3 seconds to go. He made the first free throw, then missed the second one. As Feu got the board, they  threw an outlet pass, but was intercepted by Long, to preserve the hard fought 2 point win. It was a win, but remember FEU did not have all their key players, ans we were only missing Ryan Buenafe. FEU is a definite title contender and powerhouse in the upcoming UAAP season. Juami Tiongson made a cameo appearance in this game, the only other rookie in the ADMU roster to play.

Rookies Frank Golla and Juami Tiongson had cameo appearances in this game.

Rookies Frank Golla and Juami Tiongson had cameo appearances in this game.

When he wasn't complaining to the refs, Rabeh was scoring at the low post

When he wasn't complaining to the refs, Rabeh was scoring at the low post

A couple of plays later, Rabeh fouled out on this play. In fairness to him, it should have been called an offensive foul.

2 minutes later, Rabeh fouled out in this play . In fairness to him, it should have been called an offensive foul.

Eric Salamat bullied his way in the low post for two crucial points plus 1.

Eric Salamat bullied his way in the low post for two crucial points plus 1.

Ateneo escaped with a 2 point win.

Ateneo escaped with a 2 point win.

The second ADMU game I watched was an interesting match vs defending 3peat NCAA champions the San Beda Red Lions. The Red Lions were now without Sam Ekwe, their man mountain down low, Pong Escobal, now in the PBA, and Ogie Menor who apparently will apply for the PBA draft this year. Also out with an ACL is starting point guard Borgie Hermida. The Red Lions had a new center, Sudan “Superman” Daniels, a US recruit, who  during the warm-ups was dunking like crazy. For ADMU, Ryan Buenafe was back in the fold, although he looked a bit on the heavy side, but maybe it was the hair. The Blue Eagles had just come back from a month long training stint in the US and this was their first game back.

San Beda's "Superman" Daniels

San Beda's "Superman" Daniels

ADMU and SBC benefactor MVP was on ahnd to watch his two favorite teams play. He showed his tru colors on his shirt. Seated beside him was Coach Toroman, whom I greeted. "Hi Kots!!!"

ADMU and SBC benefactor MVP was on hand to watch his two teams play. He showed his true colors on his shirt. Seated beside him was Coach Toroman, whom I greeted. "Hi Kots!!!"

The Blue Eagles’ starting lineup was no surprise as Buenafe, Baclao, and Al-Hussaini manned the frontline, while Eric Salamat and Jai Reyes were in the backcourt. Coach Frankie Lim’s starting line up was a bit surprising as he left Daniels on the bench, and started two behemoths, Baby Shaq Taganas and Dave Marcelo, plus 6-4 Bambam Gamalinda in the frontcourt, with Garvo Lanete and Chico Tirona in the backcourt.

Tip off........

Tip off........

Early on Rabeh and Noy baclao frolicked in the paint, quickly making Marcelo pick up two fouls. Off the bench. sophomore Jake Pascual came in and brough life to SBC’s offense with his jumpers. Salamat and Jai were also in a groove hitting jumpers, while Buenafe was drawing fouls from his defenders. ADMU led after the 1st canto.

If Rabeh wasn't scoring, he was dishing off to Noy, who was also actively scoring gainst Taganas and Marcelo.

If Rabeh wasn't scoring, he was dishing off to Noy, who was also actively scoring against Taganas and Marcelo.

Buenafe was scoring on his patented hangtime moves.

Buenafe was scoring on his patented hangtime moves.

Pascual came in and gave the Red Lion's offense a boost with his jumpers.

Pascual came in and gave the Red Lion's offense a boost with his jumpers.

In the second quarter, Daniels came in and his impact was immediate. He blocked Rabeh’s shot in the low post, after the UAAP MVP thought he had eluded him. Suddenly ADMU couldn’t buy a basket  and their whole offense sputtered. Nico Salva kept missing point blank shots, while the other big men were now intimidated with Danile’s prescence in the post. Kirk Long and Eric Salamat’s forays kept the team in but they yielded a 9 point lead to SBC at the half.

Superman ready to take flight

Superman ready to take flight

The bench mob of salva, Chua and Bacon gang up to stop "Superman."

The bench mob of Salva, Chua,Gonzaga and Bacon gang up to stop "Superman."

Salamat and Long kept the Blue eagles in the game in the first half.

Salamat and Long kept the Blue Eagles in the game in the first half.

Al Hussaini was now being double teamed by Daniels and other SBC big men. Rabeh's response, he picked up his first "faking a foul" call on one of his complaints.

Al Hussaini was now being double teamed by Daniels and other SBC big men. Rabeh's response, he picked up his first "faking a foul" call on one of his complaints.

As the second half started, Jai and Salamat took command and anchored a scoring blitz that enabled ADMU to tie the score with San Beda. But Superman Daniels again came to the rescue and Ateneo spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. Rabeh couldn’t get his game going against the bigger Daniels, and was called for “faking a foul.” Yup, you heard it, “FAKING A FOUL.” WTF? Sorry guys, either it is a foul or it is not. Faking a foul? Both teams were called for this infraction.Daniels  had two alley oop dunks in this game during SBC’s charge into the lead. WAW!!! Noy Baclao and the other Blue Eagles keyed a late run  in the fourth,but turnovers spelled their doom. Later, Garvo Lanete sealed the deal with a layup late in the game.

A second half blitz by Jai, Buenafe and Salamat brought the team back from a 10 point deficit.

A second half blitz by Jai, Buenafe and Salamat brought the team back from a 10 point deficit.

daniels quickly came back in the game, and San Beda was back in control. Daniels even scored on 2 alley oop dunks.

Daniels quickly came back in the game, and San Beda was back in control. He even threw down 2 alley-oop dunks during the 2nd half.

Admu had a late run, but Garvo Lanete's layup sealed the San beda win

Admu had a late run, but Garvo Lanete's layup sealed the San Beda victory.

Ateneo loses by 9 points to San Beda

Ateneo loses by 9 points to San Beda

Here is Al Hussaini's "faking a foul" call. he got teed up for his one. Later Garvo Lanete got the same call called against him. "Faking a foul?" Only in the Philippines.....

Here is Al Hussaini's "faking a foul" call. He got teed up for this one. Later Garvo Lanete got the same call called against him. "Faking a foul?" Only in the Philippines!!!

Although Ateneo finished the elims with a 5 win 2 loss record, and a seat in the quarterfinals, they withdrew from the tournament because of a prior commitment. San Beda goes up into the quarterfinals against DLSU. Good luck to both teams. As for Ateneo, the task looks tough for the defending champs. They will surely miss Yuri and Chris’ leadership,but a good sight was the much improved marksmanship of Salamat and Long from the outside. Especially Long, who appeared to be much more comfortable and confident this time.Must be the hair color. rabeh has to quit complaining and play strong in the low post. Too much finesse, not enough raw power, in my opinion. Buenafe has to get into game shape, while Noy Baclao seems to be there already. Justin Chua has to be ready to support the other bigs. So with Salva and Baldoz. Who will step up from this group and steer the Eagles to a back to back crown? Let’s ask the Magic 8 ball………..

Who among the Blue eagles is the King Eagle? even Coach Norman looks confused....

Who among the Blue Eagles is the King Eagle? even Coach Norman looks confused....

See ya in the UAAP all………