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Long-time deputy Gonzales gets his big break as new NU coach

January 6, 2010 8:18pm

National University will parade a new coach in next season’s Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines basketball wars.

And it’s not UAAP champion coach Pido Jarencio of the University of Santo Tomas Tigers or former Jose Rizal mentor Ariel Vanguardia, whose names were initially floated for the job.

The Bulldogs’ choice as new chief tactician is Eric Gonzales, a long-time deputy who’s had stints with Batangas Blades in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association, Coca-Cola and Purefoods in the Philippine Basketball Association and San Beda in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Gonzales, who replaced Manny Dandan, was recommended to the NU post by multi-titled mentor Eric Altamarino, the Bulldogs new consultant.

Altamirano was originally offered the coaching job of the team seeking to shed its image as the UAAP’s doormats but begged off due to his commitments with the RP youth team and the National Basketball Training Center.

The soft-spoken Altamirano instead recommended Gonzales, who will be assisted by former King Bulldog Jeff Napa.

“The objective is to improve the basketball team of NU, aside from the other varsity teams of the school. We are really focused on that. And we hope to be competitive this year," said University vice president Renato Carlos Ermita after conferring with athletics director Junel Baculi.

Gonzales has already presided over the Bulldogs’ first practice for 2010 at the school’s new gymnasium located at the eighth floor of their old building in Sampaloc, Manila.

The new NU mentor, though, declined to give his expectations of his team, saying he’s still in the process of assessing the Bulldogs' capabilities.

Cameroonian reinforcements

Holdovers from last year’s Bulldogs squad were not able to attend Gonzales’ first session, having been in their respective provinces still, but two foreign players expected to reinforce the Bulldogs in the next season showed up.

Six-foot-four Cameroonian John Nlepe-lepe showed enthusiasm in the scrimmages held at the brand-new hardwood court, along with compatriot John Jei Embe, a 6’4" transferee from Emilio Aguinaldo College.

Baculi, who watched the scrimmages with top school officials and team supporters led by Manny Sy and Fullton Su, said he expects the rest of the squad to be around when they hold more practices in the coming days.

As for Nlepe-lepe and Embe, Baculi said it will be up to the UAAP board to decide on their fate after the two completed the two-year residency period for foreign players to become eligible to play for a school.

“We’ll see if they can play this year. We will still present the players to the UAAP board," said Baculi. - GMANews.TV
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