On July 6, the De La Salle University Green Archers begin the quest to defend its UAAP Men’s Basketball title as it collides with the pre-season favorite Ateneo Blue Eagles. Everyone is asking: Can the Green Archers snatch its eight UAAP title and accomplish a third back-to-back feat?
Five members of the team that won the basketball championship for DLSU last year will no longer be around—court general TY Tang, clutch shooter Cholo Villanuva, big man Bryan Ilad, and role players OJ Cua and Kish Co. Although their departure will mean challenges and more adjustments for the team, Coach Franz Pumaren is not a bit worried. “That is the beauty of college basketball– to develop new guys and to recruit the right players who will fit into the system.”
While the team focuses on developing players, leadership responsibilities will rest anew on the shoulders of UAAP Season 70 Mythical Team Members Rico Maierhofer and JV Casio, and both are very much up to the task.
“We’ll take our roles, kung ano ang dapat gawin. We’ll try to lead (and) do our best to work as a team,” remarked Casio, who will be playing his last season as a Green Archer. For his part, Maierhofer promises DLSU supporters his all-out performance. “Last year na ginawa ko, dadagdagan ko pa,” said the 6’4 Puerto Galera native.
Expected to log in more playing minutes are veterans Philip James Mangahas, Peejay Barua and Arthur Peter Walsham, each of whom is itching to finally nail that breakout season. Sophomores Bader Abdullah Malabes, Simon David Atkins, Marko Batricevic, Ferdinand and Rejan Lee will be bringing in to their games the invaluable championship experience they gained from the finals series with the University of the East.
Six rookies earned a slot in the final team lineup. De La Salle Zobel standout and UAAP Junior Basketball Team Most Valuable Player Joshua David Spider Webb, former San Beda Red Cubs Luis Alfonso Revilla and Hyram Bagatsing, former National University Bullpup and RP Youth standout Mark Jovet Mendoza, Filipino-Indian Basketball League MVP and former De La Salle Zobel Junior Archer Manoj Kumar Chandumal, and Maui Villanueva of UPIS.
Notwithstanding its young lineup, DLSU is still seeded along with UE, Ateneo, FEU and UST. Credit this to the Pumaren system that has continuously worked wonders for the team year in and year out, even amidst the loss of key players. Nonetheless, the players and coaching staff admit that a lot of adjustments and practice are needed to be fully ready for the cage war. As Webb stressed, “It is a learning process.”
Judging from the Green Archers’ pre-season performance, it is safe to say that the rookies are adjusting well into the system. Although the Green Archers failed to defend its crowns in the Nike Summer League and the Filoil/Flying V Tournament, placing in the Final Four of both tournaments is a good enough achievement. Nothing was put to naught. Coach Pumaren stressed that “The purpose of joining these tournaments is “exposure for the new guys, (and they) performed pretty well.”
As usual, defense, specifically their highly vaunted pressing defense, will still be the main arsenal of DLSU this season. But, Coach Pumaren is exploring other options. “(Our game style) depends on the materials. I adjust brand of game with the materials available. We have a very small team. Our weaknesses in other departments can be offset by our quickness on the floor” New assistant coach, Cholo Villanueva added that compared to last year, this year’s team is quicker and more athletic, and can run both ends of the floor and execute the designed plays.
As last year, rebounding will be a weakness for the Green Archers. The plan is for the team’s big men to help each other in ensuring that the team earns that extra shot and on the other side, to prevent the opponents from taking second chance points.
One particular concern for the Green Archers for this season is the health and physical well-being of the players. The team was plagued with injuries during the pre-season tournaments. But Casio, Malabes, Atkins and Batricevic are now on their way to full recovery and have been already practicing vigorously with the team. They all confidently claimed that they are ready for the game against Ateneo.
So, can the Green Archers defend the crown?
“Hard to predict. (The) hardest part is staying on top. Everyone will try to unseat you. You will be challenged. But hopefully, we can come up to the challenge. We’re here. Hopefully we can sustain the run,” replied Coach Franz.