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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Basketball never stops

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THE collegiate men’s basketball season is over. And so it begins again.

Despite the Christmas break and the need to enjoy some merrymaking with friends and family, teams of the country’s premiere collegiate league, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), are avidly looking forward to next basketball season, making big moves or doing nip and tucks to their arsenal.

Bakbakan ’yan next season,” a revered basketball coach and keen observer of the game told me in a post-Christmas tete-a-tete over coffee, made more enjoyable by a cool, lazy December breeze.

Teams that were out of it in Season 85 are tired of being left out of the party, he said, and are making changes. First, De La Salle U is on a major fortification program, he shared. The team is getting huge financial support (as in “huuuge”) from alumni and benefactors—a necessary thing now that erstwhile DLSU godfather Danding Cojuangco is no longer around.

From massive player recruitment to a change of head coach, La Salle is serious about recapturing the glory it enjoyed from 1998 to 2001 via four-peat, then 2007, with the last championship claimed during the ultra dominant Ben Mbala days of 2016.

According to the grapevine, my source said, Jamike Jarin and Olsen Racela are in the mix of possible replacements for Derick Pumaren who was reported to not have been renewed by the Green Archers. Coach Derick himself says he has not been informed of that decision, but the rumor mill keeps grinding and from inside the Archers’ camp it is clear they are most unhappy that their team had missed the semis for the fifth time in the last 11 years.

And what about Far Eastern University (FEU) that had missed the Final Four for the first time in nine seasons? Olsen Racela resigned recently in a gallant acknowledgement of that fact.

Sayang,” my source said. “That was a strong team. That was a well-coached team. It’s just that their big man could not cut it when pitted against the big men of the other teams. Plus it lacked height.“

Apparently FEU’s 0-5 start made it hard for them to play catch-up, although the Tamaraws showed their true mettle in the second round.

As for University of Santo Tomas (UST), they will be out to growl in a big way in Season 86. Finding themselves in most unfamiliar territory at the bottom of the pack in Season 85, expect the Growling Tigers to stage a major hunt for glory. Rookie coach Bal David gamely took over the reins of the team in July 2022, barely two months before the start of hostilities in this much-watched basketball tournament. Preparations were still raw and the new season demanded near flawless execution and utmost attention to detail. In Season 86 UST will come better prepared.

Season 86 will be different as well for even the teams in the upper rungs of the UAAP basketball ladder. Will Jerom Lastimosa return for the Adamson Soaring Falcons? Will Ateneo’s first Ange Kouame-less season, have a good replacement for the two-time League MVP, Finals MVP, Rookie of the Year and Mythical Team member? Can he be replaced at all?

The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons will have to deal with whether or not Carl Tamayo will still suit up or accept the numerous lucrative offers he is getting from Asian pro leagues. Who else will leave with Carl, if ever? Who will be back? The roster may look a little different next season.

And then again, will National University perfect their game when the league opens the new season in September next year? Will the University of the East Red Warriors build on the gains they made in Season 85?

It’s a long way to go, but believe me, preparations are already in dead earnest as early as now.

Next week, my source analyzes the present terrain and challenges of collegiate basketball. How has the game changed, how do the current crop of players think and what do they aspire for? What kinds of fans spark phenomenal interest in collegiate basketball but may be harming the game in the long run?

See you next week, and meanwhile, have a Happy New Year!

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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