‘Unbreakable’ UAAP launches 75th season
The University Athletics Association of the Philippines held its opening press conference at the newly-built Mall of Asia Arena on Monday, launching this season with the theme, “Unbreakable at 75,” to celebrate the league’s diamond season.
UAAP president Nilo Ocampo of National University delivered the opening remarks, commending the university athletes in particular. "Everyone has the potential to be something great," he said. "This year we celebrate the UAAP as the country's premier athletic league."
Ocampo also applauded the Mall of Asia Arena, featuring a 14,100 seating capacity, for providing a world-class venue for the tournament. "We hope they can bring the UAAP experience a few levels higher," he said, adding that it would be something "similar to the NBA."
After a brief video teaser, the teams' coaches delivered their assessment of the various teams, as well as a lot of light-hearted ribbing among their colleagues. One thing they all agreed on was that this year promised to be very competitive, and anyone could be beat on a given day.
"Dati sinasabi nila hindi puwedeng manalo ang host school, but last year, Ateneo ang nagchampion," said Leo Austria, head coach of the Adamson University Soaring Falcons, who are next in line in hosting duties after NU. "This year naniniwala ang NU na dahil sila ang host, sila ang mananalo. Next year naman, sino kaya ang host?"
Austria said that his team is currently working to mitigate the losses of point guards Jerick Canada and Lester Alvarez. He added, however, that he believes swingman Jericho Cruz can provide help at all perimeter positions. He singled out Far Eastern University among the other contending schools for having the best players at every position.
The drive for five
"We're trying to accomplish something that hasn't been done recently," said Ateneo de Manila University head coach Norman Black of the Blue Eagle's quest for their fifth consecutive championship. "It will be difficult, and our perimeter defense in particular will be tested."
After missing the two previous postseasons, De La Salle University said it's entering this season with more modest goals. "We're just trying to enter the Final Four," said head coach Gee Abanilla. "We're happy that we're improving as a team and as individuals, and we're going to strive to bring honor to our school."
Green Archers rookie Jeron Teng addressed the anticipation and pressure on his addition to the squad, saying, "I don't think there's huge pressure on me, specifically. My teammates are here for me." Abanilla added as well that his young ward is very coachable and will benefit from the team's overall strategy of putting players in positions to score.
FEU coach Bert Flores said their team still aims to make an impact and possibly return to the finals for the third straight year. "We've lost key players," he said, "Pero ang importante sa first game ang kung sino ang may mas mataas na confidence."
According to NU coach Eric Altamirano, however, they're putting their preseason success, a maiden FilOil Flying V Pre-season Tournament crown, behind them. "We've had a good summer, but the UAAP is a different league entirely," he said. "We're just trying to make it to the Final Four first," adding that Ateneo, FEU, UST and Adamson were among their teams to beat.
Not all the teams have their sights set on the Final Four just yet. "We can't really predict who'll end up there," said University of the East head coach Jerry Codinera. "We're going to take this one game at a time. I'm going to motivate my players to the best of my abilities, and we'll take it from there."
He added that his roster logjam was not a problem, saying, "It means I have a lot of options during games.” Codinera added he's putting emphasis on imparting the value of the sport as a role-based game.
The University of the Philippines is another team looking to improve upon their previous year's standings. "Playing UP this year will not be an automatic 'W,'" said Maroons head coach Ricky Dandan. "If we get victories, that's fine, but we're coming in this year much improved from the last."
The University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers rounded out the coaches' statements, and as usual coach Pido Jarencio was coy about his team's prospects. "Bahala na kayo mag-isip kung ano ang mangyayari," he said. "Basta nasa lupa ang tigre: matapang at deadly."
President Ocampo said that this year, the trophies of various sporting events will feature a diamond to commemorate 75th year.
League commissioner Ato Badolato also mentioned that no major rule changes were set to take place, but that officials would meet with coaches on Wednesday to finalize matters.
"This year we will be strict with referees so that they make the right calls at the end of the game," he said.
"We will crack down on players that employ rough tactics, and we want to eliminate player violence." - AMD, GMA News
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