In season 81, the transfer of many coaches to rival school teams, and the recruitment of competitive players from the junior division is expected to be the focus of attention when the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament begins this Saturday.
The La Salle Green Archers, now coached by Louie Gonzales, will be wary of the University of Santo Tomas Tigers, a struggling squad for many years which will be handled by Aldin Ayo.
“”Every year naman, this team is expected to compete. We have six rookies and seven holdovers. And I see to it that as a rookie coach, and a rookie team, that you can expect the same animo spirit. Our team will fight it out till the end,” said Gonzales during yesterday’s press conference at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Ayo, since leaving La Salle last December, has shed his Mayhem system and put in a new game plan for the Tigers which is expected to put the Espana-based cagers in contention this season.
“Every game, we’ll just be there to compete, try our best and make no promises,” said assistant coach Nap Garcia, who added that the Ayo’s Hail Mary plan, an offshoot of the Mayhem system is in place.
Many teams, including the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles, will not be worried about these changes.
While the Blue Eagles remain the favorites, the teams with new coaches will make this a competitive season. These are expected to level the playing field as well.
“We’ll have a good season, tough season. We will battle it out,” said Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin on their campaign for the coming season, which will bear the theme, “It all Begins Here,”
The Blue Eagles will also have to keep an eye on the University of the East Red Warriors, who acquired assistant coach and Ateneo Blue Eaglets mentor Joe Silva.
Silva left the Blue Eaglets after they won a UAAP junior crown last season, and took over from Derrick Pumaren, who is now with the Centro Escolar University Scorpions.
The National University Bulldogs, who will have former Blue Eaglets coach Jamike Jarin, will also be keeping an eye on the Warriors, since Jarin and Silva used to be on the same team.
The Bulldogs will be less worried though, since Silva’s wards, the Ildefonso brothers Sean and Shaun, did not stay with Ateneo after their recent title conquest, and have joined the NU roster.
The Adamson Falcons, with coach Franz Pumaren still around, have also reformed his team’s composition, and that’s after the Green Archers took in several mainstays like Tyrus Hill,
But, the team’s remnants are still expected to bring the Falcons into the Final Four.
The University of the Philippines, handled by Bo Perasol, is expected to have a better campaign with former Perpetual Help big man Akhuetie Bright around. Acquiring former NCAA junior MVP Will Gozum of the Mapua Red Robins will also be a plus for the Maroons.
The Far Eastern University Tamaraws, handled by Nash Racela are unaffected by many changes that took place after season 80. They will have an intact lineup and are expected to have a good season.
UAAP season 81 president Nilo Ocampo of host NU lauded the efforts of many schools to prepare for the games ahead.
“Dreams are again on the cusp of being fulfilled. Many young talented student athletes are on the verge of greatness. Their countless hours of preparation will be put to the ultimate test of competition. The eight member schools have put their players in a position to succeed at the highest level. And all of us expect their competitive fire to be burning in all participants,” said Ocampo.