Less than a week has gone by since the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles claimed their fourth straight UAAP men’s basketball title, but the rebuilding and reloading process has begun for most, if not all of the teams in the league. With several marquee names finishing up their eligibility years, recruitment looks to be as hot as ever, and several impact players could be called up from the respective B-teams of each school.
Who’s in and who’s out this early? The answers, below.
Lester Alvarez (24.2 minutes – 9.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals)
Jerick Canada (16 minutes – 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals)
Jan Colina (21.7 minutes – 3.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 blocks)
Janus Lozada (25.8 minutes – 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals)
This season was Adamson’s best chance in a long time to return to the UAAP finals, a feat it hasn’t accomplished since the final four format was instituted in 1994.
Instead, the Falcons lost in two games to eventual runners-up FEU, sending Adamson off on its rebuilding a few games earlier than its fans expected.
The biggest hole the Falcons will have is at point guard. Overcoming the loss of two veteran point guards is no joke, especially when one considers the fact that the team’s third-stringer, Ryan Monteclaro, played a grand total of 16 minutes this past season. If he’s not the answer, the Falcons are hoping that Marty Pearce, a former CESAFI juniors Most Valuable Player and one-time FEU benchwarmer, will be.
Pearce is not the only UAAP transferee for the Falcons. Combo-forward Don Trollano, once a UE Red Warrior, may not be as good a defender in the post as Colina, but he’s a much better scorer, one whose outside shot is far more reliable. If worse comes to worse, the team can alternate Austin Manyara with the 6’7″ beanpole Vince Tinte, who was last seen lining up with UST a year ago.
The real catch, however, is Jericho Cruz, a transferee from Rizal Technological University. He may not have the length of Janus Lozada, but his defense is just as ferocious, as seen in his stint with the team during the Fil-Oil Summer League. If there’s one position the Falcons won’t have to worry about, it’s filling in the shoes of Lozada.
Ateneo Blue Eagles
Kirk Long (27.7 minutes – 7.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3 assists, 0.8 steals)
Emman Monfort (25.8 minutes – 7.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals)
Bacon Austria (13.5 minutes – 1.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists)
Mission accomplished for Ateneo. Though they were unable to complete an elimination round sweep, the Blue Eagles were able to get their fourth straight title, overwhelming FEU in a repeat of last season.
Next year might be a bit trickier, though. The Blue Eagles have always been a defense-first unit, and the graduates are all in the list of their team’s top defenders. The trio make up Ateneo’s best ball-handlers as well, breaking press defenses, and dishing out dimes with aplomb.
Getting Ryan Buenafe back and in shape therefore, has to be priority number one in the offseason. The former finals MVP can wreak havoc on both ends of the court, and his upcoming stint in the PBA D-League ought to help him amp up his game.
Aside from Buenafe, there’s former Green Archer Nico Elorde, a defense-first point guard who would be perfect for Black to mold, if the coach can get him to fully drop his Archer tendencies to dominate the ball.
Beyond them, it’s a series of question marks. One route they can go is to get another shooter. Ateneo finished with the fewest makes and attempts from outside the arc this season because Black favors higher percentage looks, but there’s no doubting they could use another guy to stroke the ball. That could mean Team B stalwart Jomar Adornado, son of Bogs Adornado, could get called up. Or we could see the return of Chris De Chavez, should his academics be all in order.
De La Salle Green Archers
Simon Atkins (20.7 minutes – 5.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2 assists, 0.7 steals)
Maui Villanueva (21 minutes – 4.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1 assist)
The Archers were a disappointment in their centennial year, winning just once in the second round and missing the playoffs, events that led to the eventual resignation of Dindo Pumaren, even as most of his staff made the leap to the PBA under brother Franz.
Finding a coach — or if you believe a certain set of rumors, formally announcing the hiring of a coach — should be priority number one, because believe it or not, this Archers team was chockfull of unrealized potential. And a different voice in the locker room might be the only thing this team needs to fulfill it.
That’s not to say that they don’t have options when it comes to team B players, although even they’d be the first to admit that the summer exodus of 2011 has left the La Salle developmental team short of warm bodies.
The biggest name is obviously point guard Mark Tallo, who switched sides just days before freshman registration at Ateneo. Incumbent starter LA Revilla’s health will always be an issue, so having one more point guard alongside Almond Vosotros is definitely a must. 6-foot-3 small forward Maoi Marcelino is the sole remainder on a team once brimming in Fil-foreigners, but can he get minutes? Beyond him, you have the likes of former team A player Aiki Herrera and La Salle Greenie Luigi Pumaren, the son of Franz. Expect La Salle to shore up any roster shortcomings in recruitment instead.
Jens Knuttel (6.3 minutes – 0.2 points, 0.5 rebounds, 1 assist)
JR Cawaling (16.5 minutes – 7 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists)
Pipo Noundou (1 minute – 2 points)
Aldrech Ramos (33.4 minutes – 11.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks)
Ping Exciminiano(20.8 minutes – 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals)
A return to the finals earned FEU the same result, another thumping from the Blue Eagles. They’ll be hoping that third time will be a charm, but should that happen, expect a much different team when you look past RR Garcia, Terrence Romeo and Russel Escoto. A
combination of injuries and a general lack of personnel made it tough for the Tamaraws to battle Ateneo’s frontline, but they’ll be reinforced in Season 75 by as many as three big men.
First is Anthony Hargrove, a 6-foot-5 American transferee from the Technological Institute of the Philippines who, ironically, spent some time with Ateneo before making his way to Morayta.
Then there’s a more familiar name, Arvie Bringas, the one-time Green Archer and the brother of Mark. Now fully released from DLSU, he’ll probably be raring to play, hopefully down low instead of on the perimeter hoisting up triples.
Finally, Mark Bello, a 6-foot-5 provincial recruit, might be called to make the leap to team A. But if it’s more scoring on the perimeter that they want, they’ll get it in the form of 2010 NCAA juniors MVP Gino Jumao-as, and another prominent NCAA juniors name, Archie Ingio, a former Letran Squire. The question for FEU still remains, however: “Who will distribute the ball for all these guys?”
The Bulldogs have no one graduating, but head coach Eric Altamirano hinted at the changes to the lineup after their final game of the season.
After finishing the year with the fewest assists and the most turnovers per game, NU fans are hoping he means a revamp of the team’s point guard corps, wherein no one really stood out and took charge of the position.
Sadly, though, the change seems to come up top at the center position, as the Bulldogs’ team B has two 6-foot-6 prospects to increase this squad’s ceiling.
First is Henri Betayene, who was slated to be UE’s foreign center until head coach Lawrence Chongson was shown the door. The Warriors’ loss is NU’s gain, as he had solid stats in limited minutes during the summer, when Emmanuel Mbe was frolicking around in France.
The other big man is former RP youth team member Troy Rosario, a transferee from Technological Institute of the Philippines.
Another team B prospect is one-time College of St. Benilde Blazer Mark De Guzman, another former national youth player, albeit one from Franz Pumaren’s tenure. Given how erratic NU’s shooters were last season, he would at least give the team another option from downtown, as well as some toughness on defense, something only Ajeet Singh really demonstrated in Season 74.
UE Red Warriors
Biboy Enguio (15 minutes – 5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks)
Paul Zamar (24.6 minutes – 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.4 steals)
Lucas Tagarda (16.4 minutes – 2.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals)
All of UE’s hustle could not mask the fact that the team’s lack of big men led to opponents snatching up offensive rebounds left and right. That’s a problem the Warriors are hoping a pair of returning players from Season 73 will solve, as Sam Razon and Ivan Hernandez are set to make their return.
Razon sat out this season, further recuperating from the ACL injury he suffered in season 73, while Hernandez initially left the team after Chongson’s exit, before making his way back.
One other notable standout that could find a spot on the UAAP team is Nike Montalvo. The CESAFI juniors MVP from a season ago was a hot recruit, but he got just spot minutes during the summer leagues and barely produced in the time he was given. If he’s adjusted to the level of hoops here, then he could provide some scoring punch.
UP Fighting Maroons
Miggy Maniego (15.6 minutes – 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals)
Julius Wong (5.6 minutes – 1.1 points, 1 rebound, 0.5 assists)
UP made a welcome return to the win column this past season, but there’s more reason for optimism next year, as the Maroons have a ton of players, both old and new, currently waiting on team B for a chance to play on the UAAP stage.
Up first is a troika of guards that played big minutes in Season 73, but who were forced to miss Season 74: Mark Lopez and Mikee Reyes were both sidelined with injuries, while Alvin Padilla had academic concerns that needed to be taken care of first. They’ll help a UP backcourt that could only shoot from outside or finish in transition, with nothing between those two options.
6-foot-4 Raul Suyod, a transferee from West Negros College, and Chris Ball, a nephew of Bong Hawkins, will provide depth up-front, meaning foul trouble to Alinko Mbah won’t wreck the Maroons so hard anymore.
Carlo Mendoza brings additional firepower, while former DLSU prospect JR Gallarza is said to be a game-changer. And so while yes, some guys currently on team A will have to take a step back down to the minors, an abundance of talent is a problem head coach Ricky Dandan wouldn’t mind having.
UST Growling Tigers
UST’s bench was secretly a non-factor in Season 74, when the Growling Tigers bucked preseason predictions and nabbed the fourth seed on their quadri-centennial year.
Remove Karim Abdul from the mix, as he essentially plays starters minutes, and the Tigers are left with guys like Louie Vigil, John Sheriff and Kent Lao as relievers — not exactly a well you can draw from when your first five needs a little pick-me-up.
Luckily for them, they get back a trio of scorers that combined for 21.5 points the previous season: Clark Bautista, who had academic problems, and two guys from the injury list, Eduardo Daquioag and Aljon Mariano. Even if they produce half of that figure, that’s more than enough to keep the pressure up on the benches of other teams, and with everyone else coming back, the Tigers could easily see a return to the final four.