In the Olympics, the torch is passed from one country to another every four years. In the UAAP, it is passed by the graduating players of the season, to the undergraduates, but now more experienced teammates. It is also a time that new torches are lit for the incoming freshmen. Such is the case with our UAAP Men’s Basketball team.
It was gut wrenching to see our two players, Jovet Mendoza and Joshua Webb, weeping unabashedly, as they played their last UAAP game for the Green Archers. To you gentlemen I say. Welcome to the DLSU Alumni who sit in the sidelines cheering the next team on to glory. You did your part. Just by hearing the accolades and cheers of the La Salle gallery last Saturday, that only says one thing to you gentlemen. JOB WELL DONE!
Well we fell short in the scoreboards, but not in our hearts. We gave Ateneo one hell of a message for next year, and even this year, when they face the UST Growling Tigers for their championship series. We put so many chinks in their armor in that game. We stopped Greg Slaughter. We limited Nico Salva, who was never the same after Yutien Andrada blocked his medium range jumper up top. We limited Ryan Buenafe although he did hit the big three point shot that proved to be the nail on our coffin.
But what a game for Yutien Andrada. He repeatedly sliced through the backdoor against Ateneo’s big men, even Greg Slaughter. Ateneo missed the tall presence of JP Erram as both Justin Chua and Frank Golla are not known defenders. Yutien had a field day picking the interior defense apart with his off the ball backdoor plays, and that nifty and quick under goal stab of his.
It had to take a superhuman effort by one Kiefer Ravena to bail Ateneo out. There was no other recourse for them. Nobody else was clicking. Slaughter was really sluggish all game long. One may question his heart at this time, specially with all the distractions plaguing them. But we have to give it to Ravena. He willed his team to win. That makes him a great player indeed, and I believe one of the best ever in the UAAP.
But, if you are an educated basketball fan, you will see one thing and one thing only. Next year is going to be the start of a very strong run to bring glory back to the Green and White. Players have been identified this season, players who will be our next superstars. Almond Vosotros leads that list. Up to the very last, his three point shooting and his play making were phenomenal. If we had won that game, Almond would have been the best player. With his three point shooting range, his drives, his dish offs, and his defense, Almond is THE point guard for us next season.
Backing Almond up is Thomas Torres. A little more muscle mass for him, and he will no longer be easily bullied by bigger guards. But that being the case, we have NEVER seen Thomas back down from any physicality. He just comes at you every time you push him around. A perfect off the bench point guard as we lose nothing when our lead point guard sits down.
The most tremendous upside that I see is Arnold Van Opstal. It is his footwork that has improved tremendously. He can now put a player like Greg Slaughter off his back to score on him. Greg embarrassed him in the first two meetings. Not in the third. Arnold outplayed Greg by a mile in this game. And there is nowhere to go but up for this 6’8″ behemoth. Put that in combination with Norbert Torres, and Yutien Andrada, and our front court is definitely one of the best and combinations ever put together.
Then there are the recruits. The new torches. Players, who all season long, have been sitting on the sidelines, very visibly watching the games and singing our Alma Mater. There are no guarantees with these players, but there are high expectations. And so we should expect high next season. This season’s players set that up for us. We were never touted to even make the final four, and we were not certainly given a ghost of a chance against Ateneo.
What we saw last Saturday was a very clear passing of the torch. The older players will give in to the new. The veterans are coming into super stardom. The coaching staff now on its second year. And the present Green and White gallery. Diehard to the core. I will tell you something of our commitment as part of this gallery. I and my friends Raoul, Sidney, and Joseph did not have tickets for this game. So we lined up from 7:00 AM in the morning (in the rain mind you), took our breakfast and lunch at the line, and got our tickets at 3 PM (Upper A SROs). I also have office mates Herbert and Ruel, who came to game all the way from the airport, coming from an official out of town business function. Even my friend Mike, who recently migrated to Toronto Canada, ALWAYS texts us for the game updates.
THAT is the kind of commitment the Green Archers can expect from the Green and White gallery, and if you will allow me to, my friends above deserve special mention.
WE expect a brighter torch next season. One that burns BRIGHT GREEN! See you in the gallery next season. ANIMO ARCHERS!