Let’s have a breakdown of our team’s roster and what each player brings to the tables for UP, especially now that they’re entering the second half of the season.
You can see from the way UP’s team captain play that he wants to exit from UP in a good way. He’s become the top offensive option for UP, and he’s also one of the top thieves of the league right now, just .2 points behind Ray Parks. Lopez has improved his jumpers, making him potent on both ends of the floor. Of course, he cannot do it all alone, and UP has proven that they have enough depth to cover the things he cannot. What Lopez must now do is take his defense to the next level. Coach Ricky Dandan might assign him to the best player of the opponent on the floor. For that he must be ready to go toe-to-toe with them, as well as use his basketball IQ to help spread the ball to the team, disrupt the defense and open his team mates to better looks at the basket.
Padilla has transformed from being an offensive option to a defensive option now, tying Lopez as league leader in the steals department. What Padilla should now do is keep his defensive strengths strong, and revive the offensive side of him back to when it was at its peak. Padilla can take the ball strong into the basket, or like Lopez, work out on his jumpers. If Padilla accomplishes this, he not only eases Lopez’s burden, but he also gives the other team two headaches to worry on both ends of the floor.
UP’s most explosive scorer has taken a dip in his averages this season. Some analysts have said he has stopped improving on his game. I beg to disagree. I just think a lot of other players for UP have been stepping up, easing Silungan of the burden to do all the damage for his team. But here’s one thing true about Silungan–he is a good shooter, but mostly on clean shots that other players have set up for him. Silungan isn’t exactly the best player that creates good shot opportunities for himself. He needs guys like Mbah to rebound the ball and kick the ball out to him on a spot where he has a clean look, or guards like Asilum, Gamboa and Montecastro to direct the play that will put the ball into his hands for a snipe beyond the arc. One thing that people underestimate in Silungan’s game is his playmaking. He makes good passes to open guys, and he usually does this when he is attacking the basket. Silungan isn’t exactly your inside man, but it seems he’s good at drawing the defense onto him. That opens up other players for an opportunity to take a clean shot.
When the Fighting Maroons won over the Red Warriors, one ingredient was the way Diony Hipolito played. He usually was the receiving end of either a pass from outside or in a fastbreak. And usually, Hipolito’s points came inside the paint. While Hipolito may not be your typical big man, he has enough body strength and agility to maneuver his way through low block defenders and make those stab bank shots. Diony Hipolito is a veteran, and he surely knows a thing or two about using experience to your advantage. Like Lopez and Padilla, he too has an authoritative voice that Dandan can depend on when takes on the floor.
The veteran point guard of the Fighting Maroons has been absent for a couple of games already. We can only hope that he has not rusted. And if coach Dandan calls on him to get back to the floor and do his job, he should do what he does best, or at least do what he does when he’s at his best–shoot the ball from long distance, draw up good plays, and take care of the ball. Gamboa’s experience should be of great help to his protege, the rookie Henry Asilum.
Montecastro isn’t exactly the best option in the point guard position, as far as making plays is concerned. But his speed fits the run-and-gun game of the Maroons. He is usually the receiving end of a pass off a steal because of his quickness to sprint back to the other end of the floor. Montecastro should improve on his ball handling and playmaking, two important default aspects of a point guard. That would give him more playing time on the floor if he does so.
The 4th year transferee was brought over to UP for his bruising abilities. But he also has a nice touch to the ball with his mid-range jumpers. That mid-range jumper, however, isn’t as consistent as one would expect from a big man like him. He should improve on his shots by making it count on a game-by-game basis. He’s only 6’5″, but he is heavy enough (200 ibs) with a big upper body built that makes him still a good option in retrieving the loose ball. He just needs to learn how to make a good positioning of himself under the basket to rebound the ball. He should at least be given a target to achieve this season–improve UP’s rebounding averages just enough to remove them in the standings as the worst rebounding team in the league.
The 2011 Most Improved Player has yet to make his offensive presence felt. Manuel’s mid-range jumpers have been absent of late. Some say he’s been having his minutes limited, disabling him to bring out the full force of his game. But he needs to be convincing enough with his points-per-minute rating if he wants coach Dandan to make him suit up for longer minutes on the floor. One good thing about Manuel, though, is that he added passing to his list of intangibles. That’s good, actually, for his position. But his main job is to ease the offensive burdens of the other players and get back to what he does best–explode offensively.
Did I not tell you to remember this little big guy’s name? Henry Asilum’s got game! Lest we forget, this guy didn’t make it to the RP-Youth Team for nothing. He can shoot. He can run. He can handle the ball well. And he can pass. What he should do now is improve his playmaking skills, get better at his long distance shots, be bold enough to take the ball into the hoop, help spread the floor by making the passes that count, and speed up his movements. Anything else? Oh, yeah, if he can dunk, put it also into his to-do lists.
The guy is a good mid-range shooter. He can also take it strong to the hoop. That’s where Ball should be honed to thrive, an offensive option just within the arc. His lean body can also be used to UP’s advantage as far as driving to the basket is concerned. But I think he should concentrate where he is most damaging–the area just within the three point line.
Romero should thrive on his position by making good shot selections with his jumper. For his size, he could usually be outmatched by taller players in his position. But Romero should improve into becoming a slasher. Not only would that surprise his opponents, but that would add to the offensive line-up of coach Dandan for that position. I don’t think he should be tapped to play center at all. At 6’3″, he will just be toyed over by bigger guys. Let him thrive at the forward position and be an offensive threat there. That way, there would be a lesser need to play him under the basket, and make the ball rotate on the outside perimeter.
We’ll give Robby Wierzba the acclaim for his defensive abilities. But he would need to step that one up also, as well as provide coach Dandan an option for offense. So far, Wierzba has been getting his points from fastbreaks. He should do some jump shots, but not beyond the arc.
He may have just made two points during the game against UE, but his intangibles will tell you he is needed in this team. He is the only 6’7″ guy in UP’s line-up. He should learn how to position himself under the ring, grab those rebounds, and be confident enough to take the ball strong to the hoop. He should be trained how to best use his size to UP’s advantage.
Wong is another offensive option for UP, but his playing minutes have yet to be earned by him. What he should do for his off-time is improve his offensive weapons, particularly his quickness on the floor. At 6’1″ and at 175 lbs, he can be a mismatch at the shooting guard for his opponent. He should use these physical qualities to his advantage, meaning, his speed and agility.
Gallarza’s built is a perfect for the power forward position. But compared to Romero, Gallarza is a better reliever in the center position than Romero. He should be a defensive option for this one, but can do some damage with offensive rebounds and putbacks.
UP has depth and experience to their advantage. They can switch from a run-and-gun to a halfcourt-set-play team. Their bench is one of the deepest in the league, and they have now transformed into a team that thrives in their offense through their defense. Coach Ricky Dandan should focus on improving on these aspects, as well as correcting their deficiencies, particularly in the rebounding department.
Prognosis for 2nd Half
UP has a sure chance of winning two games, as well as pull off two upsets. They’re going up against Ateneo on their first game of the second round. That’s a good opportunity for them to boost their morale entering the second half of the season. Imagine: winning your first game of the second half, which is also your first back-to-back win since many years ago, over your neighboring opponent, the defending champs, which you nearly beat during your last face-off in the first round! How’s that for a morale-boosting upset? Of course, that’s easier said and imagined than achieved. But UP has ALL WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN games over any given opponent this season. All they should do is do what it takes to win, believe in themselves, work as a team, learn from their mistakes in the previous round, and keep their fortitude strong until the closing minutes of the game.
I’m not a good basketball player. But what I’m good at (or at least I think I’m good at) is taking down notes and listening to analysts give their take on what a team did in a particular game that gave them a win.
So when the UP Fighting Maroons won their first win of the season over UE, I browsed through the internet immediately to check if there were any available clips of their game, or at the very least highlights of that game. My goal was to listen to the conversation between the commentators of the game, take note of their observations, do a statistical note-taking of my own, and come up with my own analysis of that game.
Turns out my observations matched both the comments of Boom Gonzales and Mark Molina, and the performance of players themselves when they pulled off a 63-48 victory. I am putting my observations here, hoping that, if someone out there from the team would notice enough to at least read this one, I as a fan can do a part that I know doing, for my favorite college hoops team to be a better team this second round. This is my way of making up for not being able to regularly watch their games, either in TV or live in the venue.
Again, please read this disclaimer: I am not a good basketball player, and I am not a certified analyst myself. I’m just an avid fan wanting to help the Maroons in whatever way I know I can. So here it goes:
Keep The Strong D
UP prides in having two of the best thieves in the league, Mark Lopez and Alvin Padilla. The Maroons also rank 2nd in the league for points off turnovers. This is just a proof of the time-tested principle–a good defense leads to a good offense. Lopez, Padilla, even Henry Asilum and Mike Silungan are all good in intercepting balls in the passing lanes, proving that they have a good command of their defensive sense. What UP must do now is turn that D up higher than the first half, with all of the teams now on a clutch mode.
Good Ball Rotation and Perimeter Shot Selection
UP is not a big man’s team. That’s why we are dead last in average rebounds per game. Since other teams have a better front court than us, we should focus on strengthening our backcourt with good ball rotation. This is the best way to disrupt the team’s defense and get a better chance of getting into the paint. And even if the paint area becomes congested with the opponent’s bigger men, we have enough shooters who can place themselves in a good position.
Set Silungan Up
Mike Silungan is a shooter. But he becomes better when the bigs and guards set him up for a clear shot. Alinko Mbah must do a better job of rebounding offensively, draw the defense to him, and then kick the ball out to Silungan for the shot. Of course, Mbah can only draw the defense on him if he also becomes an offensive threat inside. For that, he must also work out his under-the-goal stabs.
The 16-year old rookie didn’t just find his way into the RP-Youth team for napping. He knows his role well enough, and he also has a good offensive rhythm. If Norman Black was ready to trust Kiefer Ravena, and if Gee Abanilla was ready to trust Jeron Teng, coach Ricky Dandan can also trust his prized recruit to do wonders for the team. Of course, the downside to his 14-point explosion during their winning game against UE is that scouts have him now for a new assignment. So not only must coach Dandan trust Asilum, he must also train Asilum to improve him, especially his playmaking aspect.
Close In on Closing
A lot have been saying UP should have actually won five of the seven games. I believe that. And the problem lies in the closing. UP has shown that they can catch up with leads as high as 20, which is a proof of their fortitude. But making sure that they maintain a hold of their lead until the last minute is something they have yet to show on a regular basis. The team must focus where it matters most–the last 10 minutes of play, the closing moments of a tight game. Here, the key is mental stability. The players must be mentally strong enough not to fold under the pressure of teams wanting to pound on them. They have enough right to say they belong to the elite squads of the league, and they need enough confidence to believe in themselves that they do belong.
Finally, let me say this. It’s good that we fans stand behind the UP Fighting Maroons win or lose. But I think they should know one thing–we want them to WIN. We EXPECT them to WIN. I heard someone say “OK lang matalo basta maganda yung laro.” Well, in a way that’s encouraging, letting them know that we’re behind them. But I think they know that already. What should be implanted on their minds is that they are fighting to WIN, not just to play. While it is good for them to DO THEIR BEST, I think it’s far better if they GET THE JOB DONE. Sometimes, doing your best is reduced into an excuse for failing to win. That should not be the case. As fans, the due respect we can give to our team is first the belief that they can win, and second, the expectation that they win.
So, what do we expect from our UP Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team? Of course, we expect a better second half. They can do it. We believe they can do it. And we expect them to do it.
Many blogging days ago, an incident happened to me that made me decide to abandon this blog for a while. I knew back then that this leave I decided to take from posting was just temporary, but for how long was something I haven’t made up my mind about. This was around the time my favorite NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, was ousted from contention by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Somehow, the Spurs’ ouster not only heightened my temporary distaste for blogging, but it also served as the connection to what I would later decide to be the compelling reason to get back to blogging. I made up my mind back then that I will go back to blogging only when another of my favorite basketball team would finally get its first win of the season.
The UP Fighting Maroons.
And for six games since tip off of UAAP 75, I was always on the verge of finally bolting out of hiatus to finally fire away with blogging. But each time ended in heartbreaks for me, as my alma mater’s basketball squad always ended up short (as in two points, three points, four points short) of finally winning.
Just this afternoon, the UP Fighting Maroons barged into the win column with a 63-48 win over the UE Red Warriors.
*sigh of relief*
A lot of things were snapped by that win–six straight losses by the Maroons this season, fifteen straight losses dating back to August of last year, and 112 days of silence in this blogsite, the longest hiatus I have ever taken since this blog was born.
The last time I blogged, Jeremy Lin was still a Knick, LeBron James haven’t won a championship, and Dwight Howard was still a Magic.
The hunger has finally been satisfied, both for my favorite college hoops team, and my blog followers.
Sorry and thank you, guys.
I really want to go, but I realized 112 days of silence has actually rusted me down. So, with your indulgence, allow me to pick up my pace in the next few weeks, until every thing here’s fully settled.
For sure, the next few blogs here will be hinted with a flavor of UAAP basketball, particularly UP Basketball.
For now, relish on the fact that, finally we’re back.