RETURNING coach Pido Jarencio has reminded everyone including his coaching counterparts that his back with University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball competition Season 86.
After a frustrating 1-13 record under former coach Bal David, Jarencio also told reporters during a UAAP news conference on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena that they would give their opponent a tough time this season.
“For sure, we will be competitive this season,”Jarencio said as the Growling Tigers will parade a rejigged roster, with veteran Nic Cabañero as the cornerstone. “Everybody is strong, league is balanced, but we will just play and give them a tough time.”
Jarencio, known for his traditional mantra of heart, pride and great fighting spirit during his 2006 to 2013 stint with the Growling Tigers, added that the team is ready when it opens its campaign against season host University of the East at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the bayside Pasay Arena.
Defending champion Ateneo and last season’s third placers National University will collide in the other game of at the opening day at 4 p.m.
Kai Ballungay, Mason Amos, co-captains Sean Quitevis and Chris Koon will play for coach Tab Baldwin and the Blue Eagles.
“We’ve got to grow, we’ve got to develop, we’ve got a lot of young players, and that is going to be an exciting thing for the players and alumni, maybe not for the coaches but we will get there,” Baldwin said.
For National University (NU), Coach Jeff Napa believes the game against Ateneo would be a great opportunity to test themselves.
“Definitely, we will be competitive this season. We’ll come out strong and competitive to matchup with the big boys,” Napa said.
University of the Philippines (UP), which will play Adamson at 4 p.m. on Sunday, is determined to reclaim the throne it lost to Ateneo despite losing several key players led by Xavier Lucero, Carl Tamayo and James Spencer.
“One of the challenges we expect is how our new recruits will play together,” Monteverde said.
He coached the Fighting Maroons that ended a 36-year title drought in Season 84 last year.
“Every season, we prepare the same way. Everybody is competitive, contenders. On our part, we’re just doing our best to prepare. We’re ready,” he added.
Reigning MVP Malick Diouf, JD Cagulangan and come backing CJ Cansino will be the main men for the Fighting Maroons.
Coach Nash Racela remains upbeat of the Falcons to be competitive this season, noting that they would be the “hunters this season and hoping to gatecrash in the Final Four.”
La Salle, now with first-year coach Topex Robinson in tow, is looking forward to its first game of the season against Far Eastern University at 2 p.m. to cap the opening weekend.
“We’re excited as a team. We’re excited to play against the top teams in college basketball,” said Robinson.
Another rookie mentor, Denok Miranda, is taking things one step at a time after the Tamaraws missed the Final Four last year, ending a streak of eight consecutive appearances.
“Everybody has a strong lineup. UP, Ateneo, NU, La Salle. We will get it slowly but surely. We will improve our standings, get to the Final Four and compete this season,” Miranda, a part of the FEU 2003-05 champion squad, said.