The De La Salle Green Archers’ quest for a back-to-back UAAP championship begins tomorrow as they officially start their 2014 campaign with the FilOil Flying-V preseason tournament.
But when they troop to the court in their first assignment against the UE Red Warriors, they will be seeing two familiar faces who were both part of their storied past.
Derrick Pumaren, who coached DLSU to back-to-back UAAP titles from 1989-1990, will now be calling the shots for the Recto-based squad. Assisting him is younger brother Dindo Pumaren, a former Green Archer who previously coached La Salle for two seasons.
This marks the return of coach Derrick, who played for UE during high school to the collegiate coaching ranks since 1991. For the younger Pumaren, this will be a homecoming to the team he once coached for five seasons and led them to the finals in 2007.
The Red Warriors finished their last UAAP campaign with a paltry 7-7 record, but managed to split the season series against DLSU. Furthermore, had it not suffered injuries and suspensions to the roster, UE would have likely attained the last spot in the Final Four, which was claimed by eventual runner-up UST.
The defending champion of the Filoil Preseason tournament, UE is expected to lean on stalwart Roy Sumang, who averaged 16.5 PPG and 5.6 APG in the elimination round of UAAP Season 76, and the returning Charles Mammie, who was a menace against the Green Archers last season inside the paint. However, the Red Warriors will be without former mainstays JM Noble, Jai Flores, Ralf Olivares, and Lord Casajeros.
With Derrick Pumaren at the helm, many pundits expect University of the East to play a different system compared to the one ran by former mentor Boycie Zamar. During a media session a few weeks back, Pumaren also mentioned that he plans to make Sumang more of a playmaker, and will demand more out of Mammie, who at times last season seemed to be coasting during games.
DLSU, on the other hand, will use the Premier Cup as a means to test its new recruits like Prince Rivero, Renzo Subido, Abu Tratter, Terrence Mustre and Julian Sargent.
Tratter and the returning Yutien Andrada are expected to bolster DLSU’s already deep frontline, which includes last year’s team captain Norbert Torres, reigning Most Improved Player of the Year Arnold Van Opstal and reigning Mythical 5 selection Jason Perkins. Meanwhile, Mustre should provide more depth to Coach Juno Sauler’s point guard rotation, which includes Thomas Torres, Kib Montalbo, and veteran Almond Vosotros.
A lot of great players say that defending a championship is harder than winning one. Now that they have a target on their backs, the DLSU Green Archers will have a much tougher time winning this season’s championship compared to last year.
Though its product at the FilOil Tournament will be far from what DLSU will show in the UAAP, it should give fans a preview of things to come from the Taft-based squad when they comment their title-repeat bid. Moreover, it will be interesting to see how far the team’s younger guns have developed over the offseason, as the squad embarks on a journey to start a potential dynasty.
Luigi Dela Paz
Arnold Van Opstal