The UP Fighting Maroons will be going up against the FEU Tamaraws tomorrow afternoon, their second straight game where they will be fighting for separation in the standings, and against the team touted as the “heavily favored team” during the beginning of the standings.
This FEU squad is the same squad who won double-digit victories over ADMU and DLSU. And before we forget, this team has the next least rookies in the league, as well as the next most holdovers from last season, where they were runners up to the NU Bulldogs.
Guess which team they are second to in terms of least rookies and most holdovers?
Yes, to UP.
But what does that mean?
None so much really.
Because when these two teams take on each other tomorrow afternoon, the only thing that will matter is that by the end of the game, one team will be 3-1 (tied at first with Ateneo and UST), and the other will be 2-2.
As of this writing, the only team sporting a winless record is Adamson University. The NU Bulldogs finally earned a victory, and in convincing fashion as they defeated the previously unblemished Growling Tigers. Just a couple of days ago, the standings were quite unfamiliar to many who are not used to seeing teams like Ateneo, NU at the bottom, and UP at the top.
Now, things seem to be back to normal.
Unless… the Maroons have a different agenda.
A win by UP tomorrow will bring them a more secure spot on the top half of the rankings, together with UST and Ateneo. After the Tamaraws, the Maroons will be tackling Adamson, NU and Ateneo. UP will only need one win out of those three for the Maroons to end the first half with a winning record of 4-3. The last time the Maroons had such a record ending the first half was… Anybody old enough to remember when?
But before we get ahead of ourselves with the possibilities, first things first.
It’s not really a question of whether the Maroons can or cannot defeat the Tams. They showed in their last three games that they can. Beating a UE team that is now 2-1 also in the standings and riding on the heroics of rookie Edson Batiller, a Jeron-Teng led DLSU squad that boasts of landing prospective ROY Andrei Caracut, and giving the league-leading Tigers a scare during their previous tiff, the Maroons are capable of upsetting the heavily favored Tams.
The question is… How?
Head coach Rensy Bajar gave his boys 24 hours after their loss to lament their defeat to UST.
That was a week ago.
For sure, the Maroons’ lead tactician have already laid out his game plan to his ballers. They must have burned hours of practice time to simulate all the possible scenarios when they take the Morayta squad on the floor tomorrow. Each of the guys who will suit up for battle tomorrow have all their work cut out already by tomorrow. They must have done a checklist of sorts on what to do with who, on such and such a moment of the game.
But the sketches on the drawing board and the stench of your opponent on the open court are two different things. When the Diliman squad steps on the battle field tomorrow afternoon, they will have to set aside thoughts about the other three games ahead of them. They will have to ignore the possibility of getting into that press conference after sealing a victory. They will have to stop imagining how the headlines will be on Monday in all the sports columns of the broadsheets and tabloids. And they will have to tear into pieces anything “on paper” about the FEU’s team.
When the play ball tomorrow, what they have in front of them is an opponent that must be defeated.
But if there’s one thing the UP Fighting Maroons can put their minds into when they take on the FEU Tamaraws, it is this…
…this game is a chance at legitimacy for them.
That’s simply all there is to it.
Not the same, but still the same.
There are many things that can be said about the 67-59 loss of the UP Fighting Maroons to the UST Growling Tigers yesterday afternoon at the MOA Arena.
For sure, it can be said that the Maroons showed the “fighting” spirit that they carried in their name. They were able to capture the lead in the game once, 27-25, after trailing by as many as 11 in the third quarter.
Still, they lost.
Not only did they show they can take the lead at any point of the game coming from a deficit, but they showed that many times. They tied the game at 37 all in the third, and closed to within three points going into the fourth quarter. Two minutes left in the ballgame, UP had threatened within three, 57-54.
Still, they lost.
This was a breakout game for the up and coming stars of the UP. Diego “Legend” Dario, the sophomore Batang Gilas guard, frontlined the Maroons squad with 15 points, while fellow RP Youth teammate Paul Desiderio had 12 markers. The game showcased the arsenal of these 2nd year playmakers that will surely be integral pieces for UP’s road to redemption in the years to come.
Still, they lost.
Coach Rensy Bajar and his coaching staff showed that they can adjust to any type of play that the opponent can run. They were quick to know which players to field in whenever the other team made necessary changes. Looking at how UP answered UST’s rallies proved that the Maroons are now playing smarter basketball than before.
Still, they lost.
Down by just two points ending the third quarter 42-40, the Maroons soon felt the full display of Ed Daquioag’s weapons, who led all scorers with 26 points. But instead of cowering and whimpering away from the battle, the Maroons went toe to toe with the King Tiger. The Tigers, despite the offensive frenzy of Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer, could not shrug off the Maroons’ pesky defense, which forced turnovers, on which UP capitalized and got good points to slowly shave off UST’s lead to bring the game to a close duel.
Still, they lost.
Comparing the way the UP Fighting Maroons lost to the UST Growling Tigers last Saturday to they way they would usually bow out of a game, one cannot help but notice a big and significant improvement in the way the Maroons fought. The defense has been key to them preventing their opponents from goring them up to bits by big leads, as well as dousing any hot fire of runs that their foes wage. Despite the sterling performances of their opponents’ key offensive stars, they were able to limit others from adding more points, such as Karim Abdul and Louie Vigil. If in the past the Maroons could not even recover from a 10-point lead by their opponent all throughout the game, this time they showed that they can give their enemies a run for their money. UP has shown that now they can answer back every volley of shot by their enemies, stand their ground on defense, and keep the game close until the dying seconds, unlike in the past seasons when everyone can predict the ending of their games as a foregone conclusion.
Yes, the way the Maroons lost this time around is not the same as before.
Still, they lost.
And no matter what explanations we offer, a loss is still a loss.
The challenge is to move on, regroup, recover, and continue fighting. And the UP Fighting Maroons will have plenty of room to adjust whatever they need to get that third win. They have a couple of days in their hands to prepare themselves for the fray, scout their next target, get their minds into the game and focus on the task at hand. And the last thing they should do is to feel “ok” about the loss.
Because a loss is a loss no matter how good the game was played, just as a win is a win no matter how sloppy it was earned.
Not the same. But still the same.
Last year, the UP Fighting Maroons lit up a bonfire at the Sunken Garden in celebration of their first win of the season, courtesy of the Adamson Falcons.
That was also their last win of the season.
Yesterday, the Maroons won their second game of the season, their first 2-0 record since ’05, their first back-to-back win since ’06, and their first win against La Salle since ’09.
So far, no one’s even lighting a match stick.
Which is GOOD, actually!
If the UP Fighting Maroons, and the community of their supporters, want to write their own history this season 78 of the UAAP, they will have to contend with something greater than the seven other schools of the league.
The culture of mediocrity.
Having lost all but four games in as many previous seasons, the Maroons have come to a point where a lone win for the season was so big a deal, it deserved a bonfire celebration. Not that the intentions behind the celebrations were wrong, but consider the fact that it was sending the wrong message–that it was okay to manage to get a single win against 13 losses, because for such an unfortunate bunch that has had to endure numerous winless seasons, avoiding a zero-fourteen record was quite an achievement already. Thus the impression that the goal wasn’t to win the entire season, but to simply win one for the entire season.
And why would not the Maroons’ followers settle for a lone victory? There was a season when the UP MBT flaunted the most intact, most veteran, and most polished line up in years. During that season, they have reached the three-year maturity period of the system their coach had set up and promised to finally deliver a Final Four appearance, the first since 1997. They even had the chance to train in the States that time. But even with all of that, not to mention the enormous support the team got from many sponsors as well, the Maroons kept on losing, fired their coach in the middle of the eliminations, brought in a champion coach from the pros, but still ended up unable to salvage the season, and eventually earning another winless season.
Questions popped up like mushrooms on a wet driftwood: What happened? Whose fault is it? Was it right to kick the coach out of the team? Does UP need a benefactor who will finance the rebuilding of the team? Did UP get jinxed?
Obviously these questions have no clear answers.
Out of nowhere a mindset sprang forth. It was then cultivated by the myriad of posts, comments, opinions (mine included) and articles written about that painful season. It didn’t take long before that mindset found its form in this statement…
“Manalo lang ang UP kahit isa, ok na!”
Well, there was really nothing wrong with wanting to win one game. But there’s something seriously wrong with wanting them to win JUST one game.
Whether some (not all, and surely not many) of UP’s followers are willing to admit the existence of this mindset or not, it is true. And the players themselves have voiced out their take about it.
“No, I am not ok with losing,” said new recruit Noah Webb. “When I came to UP, I heard people tell me ‘So you’re ok with losing?’ And I said ‘No, I am not ok with losing.'”
Team captain JR Gallarza also talked about their battle against mediocrity. “This season, we can’t just settle for one win and say ‘okay na yan, nakaisa na tayo.'” He also said that any plans of a bonfire will have to wait for when UP ultimately achieves their goal this season.
The goal? A final four appearance.
Now, hold your guns before you start shooting at new head coach Rensy Bajar for concocting the idea. It’s his own way of battling mediocrity.
“We have to believe that we can win. For years, guys have been entertaining the idea that one win is enough. That’s the culture we are trying to cure.
“I keep telling the guys that they must believe they can win. We keep on telling them that they can.”
So far, they have believed. And so far, they have won.
After defeating the UE Red Warriors on opening day 62-55, the Maroons pulled off a convincing 71-66 win over the DLSU Green Archers. For the first time in a decade, the Maroons have a spot on top of the standings with a 2-0 record, and for the first time in nine years, they won a back-to-back game.
And as of this writing, not a single firewood is being lit to start any small semblance of a bonfire to celebrate where UP is right now.
“We are hungry for more wins,” says the prodigal Maroon Jett Manuel, who led the charge in their recent vanquishing of the Taft-based ballers. “We are on a high right now, but we want more.”
For a team who’s been starving for a winning season, they will surely want more.
The closest they ever got to Final Four was in 2004 when they had a 7-7 record. That by far is UP’s best record of the elimination rounds in the last 18 years.
Right now, they have taken two games closer to their goal of taking a top four spot.
“That’s the ultimate goal right now… To have a spot in the final four this season,” according to Paul Desiderio, who is bringing with him his experience in the RP Youth Squad, along with Diego Dario.
Ten months ago, the Maroons were treated as bonus games for the other teams.
This time around, they are treated as threats.
The road to redemption is not easy, but it is not impossible either. The NU Bulldogs proved this last season when they won their first championship since half a century ago. And the guy at the helm of the Bulldogs is a Maroon himself, Eric Altamirano, who was part of the last UP Champion team of ’86, and the mentor of the UP squad that barged into the Final Four the last time in 1997. I’m sure looking from his vantage point as an opponent, he knows the boys from his alma mater are the hungriest in the league right now.
On Saturday, the Maroons will take on the UST Growling Tigers, who like them is on the top spot with a 2-0 record. The Espana ballers handed the heavily favored FEU Tamaraws their first defeat, 72-71. Once again the odds are seen to be against the Maroons on this game. The triumverate of Ed Daquioag, Kevin Ferrer and Karim Abdul are as dangerous a threat as one will ever encounter. By the end of their match, one team will emerge on top, while the other will be on the second spot.
By now you must be hearing statements like “O naka-dalawa na ang UP! For sure matatalo na yan sa USTe!” Or “Pag natalo UP sa Sabado, back to reality na tayo, guys.”
The coaching staff and players of the UP Fighting Maroons will not have any of those kind of banters. Their mind is set on one thing–nothing less than a win. And for the Maroons to keep on winning against their opponents, they will have to first defeat their own sense of mediocrity about themselves. Because a true giant slayer would never say “They’re too big to hit.” but rather “They’re too big to miss!”
If all things go well, UP will find its way back to the top half of the standings after 18 years, and a second championship after 29 years.
Until then, the bonfire will have to wait.
Jett Manuel went on hiatus for two seasons for two reasons: to keep his academics straight, and to retrain his basketball skills in the US.
Suiting up again for the UP Fighting Maroons this season, the veteran guard did not disappoint and proved that he was worth the wait as he led his team to a 71-66 victory over the De La Salle Green Archers.
This is the first time since 2005 that the Maroons are enjoying a 2-0 record in the start of the season, and the first since nine seasons ago that they have won a back-to-back game. Incidentally, again, it was also DLSU that was on the losing end of the ’05 second victory by the Diliman squad.
Manuel had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the Maroons, while Paul Desiderio and Pio Longa added 13 and 10 respectively to the collective effort of the squad which shot 41% from the floor and 32% from beyond the arc. The stats prove that the Maroons have shifted from a perimeter shooting team into a more defensive unit, as they also forced La Salle to commit 20 turnovers, and limit their snipers to a dismal 3-of-24 shooting clip.
For the Archers, Prince Rivero, Andrei Caracut and Jeron Teng combined for almost half of the entire output of the Taft ballers. Thomas Torres did not deliver with his shooting, and was corralled to only 8 points with a disappointing 2-for-12 shooting.
Coming into the second quarter with a 16-14 lead, the Maroons started clicking on all cylinders and ended the quarter with a comfortable lead, 41-28. The Archers started becoming the Archers again entering the fourth quarter, and came as close to within five points, but the Maroons proved they were a different beast this time as they managed to pull away courtesy of charity shots by Henry Asilum and Andrew Harris. An erroneous inbound pass to Jeron Teng proved to be a costly miscue that gave UP the chance to drive the nail into the coffin.
Coach Rensy Bajar and the coaching staff were once again praised for the composure and competitive spirit the Maroons displayed all throughout the game. The rookie head coach for the Maroons was quick to credit the total team effort of UP in this second straight victory, that has literally put them on the top of the standings, along with UST Growling Tigers, who just won over the FEU Tamaraws, 72-71.
The back-to-back win proves that the opening game win over UE was no fluke, and that UP is looking to write a history of their own this season.
While it is too early to tell how the season will unravel for the remainder of the first round, the Maroons are sure about one thing.
There’s nowhere to go but UP!
Can the underdog beat the big shots?
A lot will say yes.
So can the UP Fighting Maroons defeat the other teams come Round 2 of the UAAP?
A lot will say no.
But who cares about the “lot” anyway?
If you want answers ask these three guys:
Mikee Reyes. Mark Juruena. Moriah Gingerich.
The three most veteran players of the UP Fighting Maroons carry with them more than just the battle scars of past defeats. They’re not merely survivors of multiple winless seasons. And surely they’re not just the hapless victims of criticisms thrown against a team that perennially inhabits the cellar of the standings.
They are witnesses.
Witnesses of a time when the underdogs prevailed over the champs.
Flashback: UAAP Season 72. The Maroons were coming off a 3-11 record from last year. They endured a 0-14 record two years earlier. They were entering the season as losers of their last three games of the previous one.
A little bit fast-forward: the fourth game of the season. Guess who the Maroons were playing…
The Ateneo Blue Eagles.
And how much of a giant was Ateneo? Well, just the previous year they won their first championship under the tutelage of Norman Black. And on their roster were players like Rabeh Al-Husseini, Nonoy Baclao, Jai Reyes, Eric Salamat, and Chris Tiu. Coming into the game against UP, they haven’t lost for six straight games since last season. UP, on the other hand, had lost six straight.
The team on top of the food chain versus the bottom dweller–get the picture.
It seemed the Eagles would have its way against the Maroons.
As it turns out, UP would pull the biggest upset of that season.
Here’s a look back to that game:
But that didn’t end there. On that same season, UP outlasted the DLSU Green Archers. Mikee Reyes knows and remembers this game very well.
Together with their win over NU, UP won only 3 games that season. By reason of point differential, UP dropped to 8th spot that season. Ateneo won their back-to-back championship that season. La Salle was ousted of the Final Four for the first time in the Franz Pumaren era.
Just so you know, ADMU’s record was 13-1 that season. The one blemish they endured came from UP.
Just so you know, DLSU’s record was 5-9 that season. The one loss that cost them the Final Four slot came from UP.
That’s right. From the 8th seeded UP Fighting Maroons.
And Juruena, Reyes and Gingerich were there.
So if you ask them, they’d most definitely say yes.
That underdogs can slay giants
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.